With pressure mounting over Americans stranded outside the United States because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions, the government plans to use its planes that deport migrants to bring U.S. citizens home, a senior administration official said Monday.
The use of repurposed deportation flights is one of several actions the State Department is taking to retrieve thousands of Americans grounded in foreign countries since the U.S. began closing its borders and barring arrivals from some nations, in an effort to slow the spread of the highly infectious virus. At the same time, commercial airlines dramatically cut back on flights.
“We’re working around the clock to bring U.S. citizens who are stranded overseas back home,” a senior State Department official said, briefing reporters by phone on grounds of anonymity, in keeping with administration protocol. Consular staffs “have been working night and day to help Americans get on flights.”
About 5,000 American citizens in 17 countries have been transported back to the U.S. in recent days through a fleet of commercial, charter and U.S. military flights, the official said. Another 13,500 have asked for help, and 16 more flights are scheduled for the coming days.
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