Dingell asks Kerry to help evacuate citizens from Yemen

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry late Thursday urging his agency to prioritize the evacuation of U.S. citizens stranded in Yemen amid airstrikes by Saudi Arabia.

“We have an obligation to make every possible effort to safely evacuate U.S. citizens from conflict zones,” wrote Dingell, a Democrat whose district includes a significant Yemeni-American community.

“It is critical that you work with our allies in the region to explore alternative options for the safe evacuation of U.S. citizens in Yemen.”

Saudi Arabia announced an end to its air campaign Tuesday but this week bombings have continued targeting Houthi rebels backed by Iran. The Houthis invaded Yemen’s capital last year and this month forced its president from the country.

Dingell’s office and Arab-American advocacy groups in Michigan are continuing to receive calls from Yemeni Americans desperate for information and help for family members trapped in the war-ravaged country. Roughly 12,000 Americans of Yemini descent live in southeastern Michigan.

The U.S. pulled diplomats and security personnel out of Yemen earlier this year, but the State Department has said it has no plans to evacuate 55,000 Americans living in Yemen.

This week, the department set up a website where U.S. citizens in Yemen can sign up to receive information and updates from the agency, which is collaborating with allies in the region and groups such as the International Organization for Migration, which are evacuating refugees.

“We have let Americans know that have signed up with the State Department how they can avail themselves of these opportunities,” Marie Harf, acting spokeswoman for the State Department, told reporters Thursday. “We also have been warning for many, many years now that people should not travel to Yemen.”

The Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is part of a federal lawsuit against President Barack Obama and Kerry for failing to evacuate 55,000 Americans from the war-ravaged nation.

“It is evident from the sheer lack of action by the federal government that it places a low premium on the lives of Americans of Yemeni descendent,” CAIR-Michigan director Dawud Walid said in a statement last week.


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U.S. citizens in Yemen are encouraged to notify the U.S. government of their presence in Yemen by signing up for information and updates at https://tfa.state.gov/ccd/ and by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://step.state.gov/step/.