Senator’s office reports young students stuck in Morocco, other Massachusetts residents reaching out to State Department only to get lack of coherent, timely, and focused advice
Washington (March 20, 2020) – As more and more countries close their borders and take action to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called on the Department of State to immediately prioritize services for U.S. citizens overseas by forming a worldwide task force specifically focused on American Citizen Services for the COVID-19 outbreak. The State Department stood up the repatriation task force on March 19.
In many countries, commercial flights are not available as borders shut down, leaving Massachusetts and other U.S. residents stranded and with little to no guidance from U.S. Embassies and Consulates on the ground. The State Department will now prioritize services for U.S. Citizens through this worldwide task force devoted to coordinating American Citizen Services (ACS) response to the worldwide threat of COVID-19, instead of iterative, country by country ACS task forces. Senator Markey called on the Secretary to stand up a worldwide ACS COVID-19 task force immediately in order to leverage existing expertise amongst the diplomatic and Washington, D.C.-based State Department staff in order to do so.
Senator Markey is further calling on the Secretary to quickly implement more robust backup plans for overseas posts that are overwhelmed with U.S. citizen requests for guidance and assistance, and will soon request the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate with the State Department on humanitarian parole issues, such as non-U.S. Citizen grandparents travelling with U.S. Citizen minor children.
“It is imperative that the United States moves urgently to protect U.S. citizens worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Senator Markey in his letter to Secretary Michael Pompeo. “Throughout this crisis, the Trump administration has shied away from exerting U.S. leadership and encouraging global coordination. I urge you to quickly demonstrate U.S. leadership by increasing diplomatic cooperation and promoting global coordination on all fronts necessary to protect all U.S. citizens and permanent residents, worldwide.”
A copy of Senator Markey’s letter to the State Department can be found HERE.