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  • FYI. Below is an example of the kinds of messages that are coming out of U.S. embassies across the world.

    —– Forwarded Message —–
    From: ConsulateNiamey@state.gov
    Sent: Monday, March 30, 2020, 09:22:42 PM GMT+1
    Subject: Health Alert: Repatriation Flight Booked – U.S. Embassy Niger (March 30, 2020)

    Health Alert: Repatriation Flight Booked – U.S. Embassy Niger (March 30, 2020)
    Location: Niamey, Niger
    Event: During this time of global response to COVID-19, U.S. Embassy Niamey is prioritizing assistance to American citizens. With the suspension of commercial air service in Niger, U.S. Embassy Niamey has worked with the Government of Niger to allow a repatriation flight to the United States, departing Tuesday, March 31 to Washington, D.C. Seating is fully booked at this time. Confirmation emails to those granted access to the flight have already been sent from the Embassy. At this time, we are not able to include additional passengers on the flight. Only persons who received email confirmations will be allowed boarding on Tuesday.
    Staff members at U.S. Embassy Niamey are currently exploring additional future flight options. The Embassy will keep you informed if anything becomes available.
    Actions to Take:
    • Abide by the curfew and stay indoors between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., if in Niamey.
    • Be aware of your surroundings.
    • Avoid demonstrations.
    • Avoid crowds.
    • Have travel documents up to date and easily accessible.
    • Carry proper identification.
    • Consult the CDC website for the most up-to-date information.
    • For the most recent information on what you can do to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 please see the CDC’s latest recommendations.
    • Visit the COVID-19 crisis page on travel.state.gov for the latest information.
    • Visit our Embassy webpage on COVID-19 for information on conditions in Niger.
    • Visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website on the latest travel restrictions to the United States.
    Assistance:
    • U.S. Embassy Niamey, Niger
    BP 11201
    +227 20 72 26 61
    +227 99 49 90 66 (after hours)
    NiameyACS@state.gov
    ne.usembassy.gov
    • State Department – Consular Affairs
    • 888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444
    • Niger Country Information
    • Enroll in Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security updates.
    • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

  • As a former Peace Corps country director and career Foreign Service Officer with on the ground experience in crises and evacuations, I feel compelled to raise a few points: 1) US Embassies’ have clear responsibilities concerning the safety and security of US citizens in country; 2) Ever since crises and evacuations in the 1980s and 1990s, a “no double standards” policy has been in place to ensure that US Government officials and their families, and by extension PCVs, did not get preferential treatment in terms of the security guidance they received; 3) The Peace Corps country director and staff have a responsibility to evacuate PCVs when the Ambassador orders an evacuation of “non-essential” Embassy staff and family; PCVs would fit this definition, which is to say they would not be part of the skeleton staff left behind to keep the flag flying. The Ambassador cannot order non-USG Americans to depart country, but they must tell those Americans that some portion of the Embassy staff have been ordered to depart (this guidance also appears in State Department travel warnings); 5) Where the safety and security situation are in decline, Embassies strongly urge Americans to depart country by commercial or private means before those are no longer and option. To the greatest extent possible, Embassies try to evacuate non-essential staff and families while commercial means are still available, and based on my experience, Peace Corps would try to do the same. So in reading the article, the questions that arose in mind were: 1) When were PCVs ordered to depart? 2) Were commercial options available at that point? 3) Did the Peace Corps staff or the individual PCVs identify, arrange and pay for the flights out? It would be very unusual if the PCVs were on their own in such cases. 4) Was the Peace Corps country director involved and kept aware of the Embassy’s assessments and planning? 5) Were all PCVs out before the charted flight was arranged and booked (which often happens later in the process)? 6) If there were still PCVs in country needing flights out, was Peace Corps given the opportunity to book them on such flights? Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, so I would be careful about concluding that the Embassy or the State Department leaving PCVs high and dry to fend for themselves completely. Sorry for the long comment, but I felt compelled to share this.

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