A report published on Thursday alleged that the Biden administration was charging U.S. citizens for evacuation flights out of Afghanistan, and even more for non-citizens.
“Even though U.S. officials tell NatSec Daily and others that evacuation flights from Kabul will be free, people trying to catch a plane in the Afghan capital say differently,” Politico reported. “One person said State Department staff were seeking large payments — up to $2,000 — from American passengers and even more from non-U.S. citizens.”
Politico says that it confronted the State Department over the matter, which they said did not deny that it was happening.
“U.S. law requires that evacuation assistance to private U.S. citizens or third country nationals be provided ‘on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable,’” the spokesperson said. “The situation is extremely fluid, and we are working to overcome obstacles as they arise.”
“In other words, the Biden administration may request payments for evacuation flights,” the report added.
Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) responded to the report by saying that she was creating legislation to ban the U.S. government from charging Americans for the flights.
“Biden created this crisis, now he wants to charge Americans who are desperately fleeing the Taliban? That’s wrong,” she wrote on Twitter. “We should not be making Americans pay for their ride to safety. I’m drafting legislation now to PROHIBIT the US government from charging Americans, period.”
Biden created this crisis, now he wants to charge Americans who are desperately fleeing the Taliban? That’s wrong. We should not be making Americans pay for their ride to safety. I’m drafting legislation now to PROHIBIT the US government from charging Americans, period. https://t.co/urYL9GYIfh
— Congresswoman Tenney (@RepTenney) August 19, 2021
State Department Spokesman Ned Price claimed to the Daily Caller that the administration has “no intention of seeking any reimbursement from those fleeing Afghanistan,” which contradicts what the State Department said over the weekend.
“Repatriation flights are not free, and 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,” the administration said in a security alert issued on Saturday. “The cost may be $2,000USD or more per person.”
The Washington Examiner highlighted that a separate State Department webpage on crisis situations stated the following:
In extreme situations, if there are no commercial transportation options (planes, trains, boats/ferries, etc.) available, and if we have consular officers at the embassy or consulate, and if the conditions permit, we may help U.S. citizens seeking to depart by working with the host government, other countries, and other U.S. government agencies to identify – and in some cases arrange – available transportation. Regardless of the method of transportation, or who provides it, U.S. citizens (and others who are eligible for U.S. government assistance) are generally responsible for reimbursing the government for the cost of their travel.
The same page answered the question of “will the U.S. government pay for my evacuation if it is needed?” by stating:
No. U.S. law requires that the assisted evacuation of private U.S. citizens or third country nationals be provided “on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.” However, we do understand that you may not be able to access your own money during a crisis. For evacuation transportation that we arrange to transport you out of a crisis location, you do not have to pay before you board. To board these transports, you will need to complete and sign a form promising to repay the U.S. government. 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. Because different evacuation transports may go to different destinations, the cost of one transport may be different than another. We encourage people to leave on the first transport they are able and eligible to board.
As mentioned above, an evacuation is almost always to a nearby location away from the crisis, which is very rarely to the United States. You are also responsible for the costs you may incur in the destination, including hotel, food, clothing, medication, and other necessities.
Emergency financial assistance in the form of a loan may be available to U.S. citizens who are unable to pay for their onward travel to the United States.
This article has been expanded after publication to include additional information.