U.S. citizens evacuated from Afghanistan by the United States will not be charged for repatriation flights, the State Department clarified, amid reports that some were asked to pay $2,000 or more.
“In these unique circumstances, we have no intention of seeking any reimbursement from those fleeing Afghanistan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told several media outlets on Thursday.
The U.S. embassy in Afghanistan had previously said it would seek reimbursement for the cost of evacuation flights from those seeking evacuation assistance once they were safely out of the country.
The Overseas Security Advisory Council said in a security alert published on Aug. 14, the day before Kabul was seized by the Taliban terrorist group that repatriation flights “are not free.”
“Passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their U.S. passports until the loan is repaid,” it said.
Separately, the State Department’s website points out a federal law that requires it to seek reimbursement for U.S.-chartered evacuation flights. Failure to repay the costs in full may lead to U.S. citizens being denied a regular U.S. passport, it says.
“By taking a U.S. government coordinated transport, evacuees are obligated to repay the cost of their transportation,” it states. “The amount billed to evacuees is based on the cost of a full fare economy flight, or comparable alternate transportation, to the designated destination(s) that would have been charged immediately prior to the events giving rise to the evacuation.”
Despite Price’s clarification, Politico reports that one person said State Department staff were seeking up to $2,000 from American passengers and even more from non-U.S. citizens.
When pressed on the issue by the news outlet, a State Department spokesperson cited the federal law on seeking repayment.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the State Department for additional comment.
The Pentagon says that some 7,000 people, including 2,000 Americans have been brought to safety since evacuation efforts began on Saturday.
The State Department told The Epoch Times in an email that it believes there are 5,000 to 10,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan. The agency described the number as a rough estimate.
President Joe Biden said in an interview released earlier on Thursday that there may be as many as 15,000 Americans still in Afghanistan. He told ABC News a day earlier that his administration won’t withdraw U.S. troops until all Americans who seek to leave have been evacuated, despite a Aug. 31 drawdown deadline he set previously.
“We’re going to stay till we get them all out,” Biden said.
The State Department also said on Thursday that it is easing travel requirements for evacuees, stating that they won’t be required to test negative for COVID-19 in order to travel.
“A blanket humanitarian waiver has been implemented for COVID testing for all persons the U.S. government is relocating from Afghanistan,” the department said.
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master’s in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.