WASHINGTON, Sept.29 (Reuters) – The United States is working to verify the accuracy of the passenger list aboard a charter plane carrying more than 100 U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents evacuated from Afghanistan, said on Wednesday State Department organizers said Washington had denied him landing rights.
“Staff at our Embassy in the United Arab Emirates have worked tirelessly to verify the accuracy of the passenger manifesto and coordinate with DHS / Customs and Border Protection in the field to ensure passengers are screened and screened before that they are not allowed to travel to the United States, “a State Department spokesperson said.
“We expect passengers to continue their journey tomorrow morning,” the spokesperson added.
Bryan Stern, founder of the nonprofit Project Dynamo group that chartered the flight from Kabul, said on Tuesday evening that the Department of Homeland Security’s customs and border protection agency had denied landing rights for the charter flight to the United States.
In a subsequent interview on Wednesday, Stern said DHS identified to authorities at Abu Dhabi Airport in the United Arab Emirates one person among the evacuees as “a problem,” but he was unsure whether it was the reason the landing rights were denied.
“DHS contacted the airport and said, ‘This guy doesn’t fly.’ They gave me his name. We went to find him. Told him he couldn’t fly and took it off the manifesto. But I don’t know if that was the problem, “Stern said.
DHS did not respond to a request for comment.
Stern’s group chartered a plane from Kam Air, a private Afghan airline, which carried their group of 117 people, including 59 children, to Abu Dhabi airport.
He and the evacuees were removed from the plane, which has since returned to Kabul, and kept in a restricted-traffic room under the surveillance of Emirati police, he said.
“We are in detention as we speak in Abu Dhabi. We are all locked up here together,” Stern said.
Stern said they were due to depart Thursday morning on a flight to Chicago and that the State Department had “graciously” agreed to pay for his group’s seats.
Twenty-eight U.S. citizens, 83 lawful permanent residents – green card holders – and six people with special U.S. immigration visas granted to Afghans who worked for the U.S. government during the 20-year war in Afghanistan were at board the Kam Air flight, Stern said.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Stern’s current situation and the cost of the flight.
Stern’s group is one of many that emerged from ad hoc networks of US veterans, former and current US officials and others who formed to support the US evacuation operation last month. which they saw as chaotic and poorly organized.
“All flights to the United States must follow established safety, security and health protocols before being cleared for departure,” a DHS spokesperson said. “This process requires that flight manifests be checked prior to departure to the United States to ensure that all passengers are properly screened.”
President Joe Biden’s administration has said its top priority is to repatriate Americans and green card holders who were unable to leave Afghanistan during the US evacuation operation last month.
Stern had planned to transfer the passengers to an Ethiopian Airlines chartered plane for a connecting flight to the United States. According to him, the customs agency authorized the landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
The agency then changed the clearance for Dulles International Airport outside Washington before denying the plane’s landing rights anywhere in the United States, Stern said.
Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Written by Jonathan Landay and Humeyra Pamuk, edited by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Stephen Coates
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