Remarks at the Embassy Djibouti Consular Section

John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy Djibouti
Djibouti, Djibouti
May 6, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: All right. Well, I’m delighted to see you all here. You guys can’t see. Can you see over there? I’m doing my own press operation here today. (Laughter.) There you go. Wow, we don’t want that to happen.

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: There you go. All right. So as these people know better than anybody, and as you know as well as they do, I guess, you have been doing an amazing job under very, very difficult circumstances over the course of these past weeks, and we’re very, very proud of you. In fact, at the State Department I will tell you we’ve been hearing the stories of all of you down at the docks greeting every citizen; there isn’t anybody who’s come in who hasn’t been warmly received. And you’ve done an amazing job not only of protecting American citizens but of working with the community here in order to make this a seamless transition under the most difficult circumstances.

And I know that it’s always a little bit chaotic. I wanted to personally come here really just to tell the world about the story of what’s behind the news headlines when they read “Refugees trapped in Yemen,” or “trapped in Aden, people trying to get out.” And people have no sense of all the machinery that has to come together to work to find a way to get out, a safe way, get onto a boat, the harrowing nature of traveling across water under those kinds of circumstances; your family huddled on a deck or down below, or if you’re lucky, on a larger military ship where you have greater protection and comfort; and then to come into a port in another country and you don’t know what’s waiting for you, you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know if you’re going to eat, you don’t know what’s going to happen to you. And a – friendly faces on the dock waiting to say, “It’s going to be okay,” makes all the difference in the world.

And the entire State Department family contributed to this effort from – literally, from Madrid to Jerusalem to Casablanca, people have come together in order to work to provide not only additional people, but to provide the connections so people know who’s real, who’s what, how do you connect them to family, make those critical phone calls. And the entire embassy here in Djibouti and the entire embassy community – American and local staff – have all joined together to provide – they’ve donated food, they’ve donated clothing, they’ve donated water to some of the most needy U.S. citizens. And I will tell you everybody appreciates it, but particularly every American back home says thank you to you for doing beyond your jobs.

The – let me tell you a little bit about a few of the people so this gives you a real human being to attach to this. Saleh Mohsen Nasser arrived here from Yemen on April 11th with his wife, Arwa, and their two children, Sharifa and Mohammed. And the family fled together with Saleh’s stepmother from the port of Aden, and they arrived with some 60 other U.S. citizens on the Indian naval ship Tarkash.

Saddam Lashuel arrived here from Yemen. Did I pronounce that – mispronounce it?

PARTICIPANT: Yeah, Saddam. Saddam Lashuel.

SECRETARY KERRY: Saddam Lashuel – all right – came from Yemen on April 16th on the Indian naval ship Sumitra with his wife, their two children, who I see here – Hadeel and Zuha. And he was already documented – they were documented as a U.S. citizen at birth, but Zuha had not yet received her first U.S. passport, so there was a hurdle you have to cross. And through consular officers at the port, Saddam was able to pass a message to his brother in the United States through Ambassador Kelly to let him know that the family had arrived here safely.

Amar Motahar Zabarah arrived here from Yemen on April 16th on the Indian naval ship Sumitra with his U.S. citizen brothers, Hamzah, and Hamzah’s wife, Eman; his U.S. citizen sisters, Nasiebah and Nafiesah and Ala’a and his Yemen-born sister, Aya. And the family was in contact with the department before they left Yemen. Several officers helped them to find the transportation they needed and laid the groundwork for further assistance on arrival here in Djibouti. And actually, members of Congress had reached out to the United States – to the State Department and the embassy on the family’s behalf expressing their concern in trying to help break through the red tape.

So what you have all done and what we do, frankly, every day here – but this is special because it’s been so intense – is to change a catastrophic and daunting situation for individual human beings, American citizens, into something manageable and something less traumatic and something that ultimately can reunite them with family and with country. And so it means an enormous amount to President Obama, to me, and to every American to know that people are over here working like that to represent our country and to take care of American citizens no matter where they may be living and no matter what their circumstances may be.

This is not the easiest time, as we all know, for diplomacy in the Middle East. Four United States embassies have been closed because of the security situations in one part of this world or another, and there is extra pressure on the posts, therefore, that are open. And because of the location, Djibouti is carrying a large part of this burden, so that is a major reason why I wanted to come here today. This country, as small as it is, and its mission are extremely important, and everybody here can now begin to see more realistically why that is.

So thank you for carrying the flag, thank you for working the extra hours, for going to such great lengths to represent us as well as you have all done. We are very, very proud of you. Thank you so much. (Applause.)