Some Chicagoans stuck in Yemen during COVID-19 will be among first to return to US

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Dozens of Chicagoans are caught in Yemen, what may be the world's worst COVID-19 country. Tonight, the I-Team is told that about fifty Chicago area residents are among those ticketed on a State Department charter jet out of Yemen on Sunday. Another flight is sheduled for Wednesday. Now, local leaders at the Council on American-Islamic Relations say just two U.S. government flights means additional Chicagoans and hundreds of other American citizens and legal permanent residents will be left behind.

RELATED: Chicago area residents stranded in Yemen during escalating humanitarian, COVID-19 crisis
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Chicagoans who returned to Yemen to attend weddings, or visit family and friends and were stranded by the COVID-19 crisis may now get State Dept. help to get home.

"There's over 1000 documented US citizens and legal permanent residents who are stuck in Yemen, right now. So, the two flights will not be enough nearly."Sufyan Sohel, CAIR-Chicago Deputy Director told the I-Team.

Sohel says additional flights may be added from the otherwise shutdown Aden Airport on Yemen's southern coast. More than a week after the I-Team first reported 83 Chicagoans were stranded here after the COVID crisis closed in the country, a group including 27 Chicago children, some of them are scheduled to return stateside.

"They're stuck in Yemen due to the pandemic," said Naser Nasser. Nasser has family and friends stuck in Yemen and gave the U.S. State Department lists of those who needed help as COVID-19 took countless lives, marked by these expanding graveyards.

Two Chicago area families that we profiled last week have loved ones on the Sunday flight back to the U.S. Both Iman Nasser's 80-year old father and Mogeeb Taher's pregnant daughter booked the $1500 flight scheduled for this weekend.

But as COVID cripples Yemen, other Chicagoans and many Americans will be waiting for additional State Department flights.

"I think if it was any European country where this was happening or an ally country, we would have had these individuals out almost immediate immediately. But, what are we seeing in Yemen? We're seeing cholera we're seeing COVID-19 we're seeing Civil War we're seeing famine and one of the worst humanitarian crises of our lifetimes and the US government did not do enough early enough to protect these U.S. citizens and green card holders to return to the United States," Sohel told the I-Team.

There is no American embassy in Yemen but tonight a State Department official tells the I-Team they understand there has been "great interest in repatriation flights" from there. They say in a statement that they "are pleased that the Department of State was able to arrange these flights with our regional partners."

A bigger problem for some stranded Americans is their passports have expired during the delay-and some infants born during the pandemic don't even have papers. Its not certain they'll be allowed into the U.S. until they can get to a country with a U.S. embassy.

CAIR-Chicago directs those with family members stuck in Yemen here for more information:

CAIR Yemen resources page

The CAIR Emergency Travelers Assistance Project hotline: (872)-333-2737

Travel assistance form CAIR Chicago asks Yemen-connected families to fill out
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