05. U.S Department of State telegram to all diplomatic and consular posts abroad containing guidance on requests by private American citizens for emergency protection in U.S. diplomatic and consular premises (October 2003)





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A.) 2 FAM 229.1 B.) 7 FAM 144

1. Summary. This cable announces forthcoming revisions to the FAM (including 2 FAM 229.1 and 7 FAM 144) that together clarify the assistance posts may provide to U.S. citizens who seek temporary emergency protection ("temporary refuge") at overseas posts. Posts must notify and consult with the appropriate offices in the Department immediately when a U.S. citizen requests temporary refuge, detailing the reasons for the citizen's request and advising about relevant local conditions. The Department generally will approve such requests only when the U.S. citizen would otherwise be in danger of serious harm. A U.S. citizen granted temporary refuge may remain within post facilities only until appropriate arrangements to secure the citizen's safety are in place. Constant communication and close coordination between posts and Department is critically important in such cases to ensure post security, the safety of private U.S. citizens, respect for the laws of the host country, and the protection of other U.S. government interests.
End Summary.

2. Receiving a Request for Refuge: Security, Safety,

When a person claiming to be a U.S. citizen requests an embassy's or consulate's protection, the official to whom the request is communicated should take the following steps immediately:

First, contact the RSO or marine security guard for assistance and notify the consular section chief that a request for temporary refuge has been received.

Second, RSO or marine security guard should ensure that the person requesting temporary refuge does not pose a risk to the safety or security of post, its personnel, or others. The RSO or marine security guard and the post official who makes initial contact with the person requesting temporary refuge should together obtain initial confirmation of the requesting person's U.S. citizenship, to the extent practicable under the circumstances.

Next, the consular section chief, or ACS chief, and at least one security officer should escort the person requesting temporary refuge to a meeting room or other place suitable for a private conversation. If the person's U.S. citizenship is not definitively confirmed, consular officer should select a place to which foreign nationals would otherwise normally have access. The consular and security officer(s) should attempt to put the person seeking temporary refuge at ease, assuring him/her that he/she is physically safe, and emphasizing that the presence of security personnel and the use of a private meeting room are intended to ensure their safety and to provide for their privacy.

3. Opportunity for Privacy Act Waiver

Before proceeding with the interview described below, the consular section chief or ACS officer should ask the U.S. citizen whether her or she would like to sign a Privacy Act waiver. In all cases the waiver form must contain or be attached to a Privacy Act Notice that explains: (1) the authority authorizing the Department to solicit the requested information, and whether disclosure of such information is mandatory or voluntary; (2) the principal purpose(s) for which the information is intended to be used; (3) the routine uses that may be made of the information; and (4) the effects on the individual of not providing all or any part of the requested information.

Explain that Department will create a Privacy Act protected file in connection with the U.S. citizen's request for temporary refuge, the information in which will be used only for official purposes and in accordance with prescribed "routine uses," unless otherwise authorized by the U.S. citizen through his or her signature on the waiver form. Explain that he or she may limit the scope of the waiver so that it covers only certain people or categories of people or extends only to certain purposes. Finally, explain that a waiver, depending on its scope, can help facilitate Department's communication with family members and others potentially able to help the citizen.

Post personnel should take care not to pressure (or appear to pressure) the U.S. citizen for a Privacy Act waiver signature. Rather, inform the U.S. citizen of his or her Privacy Act rights and the effect of a waiver, allowing the citizen to elect or decline to sign the waiver form.

4. Conducting an Interview

Consular section chief or ACS officer should conduct an initial interview of the person requesting temporary refuge with an emphasis on gathering information needed to verify the person's U.S. citizenship, to identify the citizen reliably, and to evaluate the nature and severity of the danger he or she fears. It is largely on the basis of this information that Department will make a determination about the U.S. citizen's eligibility for temporary refuge and need for other consular services.

At a minimum, consular officer should ask the U.S. citizen to provide the following information:

- Name(s);
- DOB(s);
- PPT# (photocopy the passport, if available);
- Marital status;
- Names, identifying details as available, and location of family in the U.S., the host country, and elsewhere;
- Circumstances surrounding the U.S. citizen's presence in the host country - e.g., tourist, permanent resident, business, married to/living with host country national, child of host country national, etc.;
- Person or people from whom serious harm is feared;
- Why serious harm feared;
- Any current injury as a result of violence from the person/people from whom serious harm is feared;
- Any other current injury (regardless of cause) or illness;
- Any physical harm suffered in the past from person or people now creating fear and corresponding details;
- Any physical harm threatened from those people in the past and corresponding details;
- Any steps taken to date to secure protection of host country authorities;

  • Any help sought from non-governmental sources - family, friends, NGOs, religious organizations, etc. - and with what result;
  • Any disputes related to the feared harm currently being adjudicated by any judicial or other host country authority;
- Whether subject to any arrest warrants or other judicial / law enforcement orders in the host country, in the U.S., or in a third country (whether or not related to the reasons for which temporary refuge is sought);
- Involvement in any other ongoing legal proceedings (whether or not related to the reasons for which temporary refuge is sought);
- If family is present in host country, are they aware that citizen has sought / was intending to seek temporary refuge;
- Are local or host government officials aware that citizen has sought / was intending to seek temporary refuge? If so, identify those officials to the extent possible;
- What does the citizen want, e.g., to stay in post facilities for short period until particular danger passes, until some reliable protection is available from host government authorities, and/or to return to the United States?;
- If citizen wishes to return to the United States, is he or she aware of any general or particular restrictions on his or her travel out of the host country under host country law?

At the conclusion of the interview, consular officer should explain to the U.S. citizen that post must report to Department and seek instructions regarding the U.S. citizen's request for temporary refuge. In the meantime the U.S. citizen will be permitted to remain on embassy/consulate grounds or may leave freely if he or she wishes.

Unless the U.S. citizen or his/her presence within embassy/consulate facilities appears to poses an unacceptable safety or security risk, post should not compel a U.S. citizen who requests temporary refuge and communicates a belief that he or she is in danger of serious harm to leave the embassy/consulate grounds without first seeking instructions from the Department and post management, in accordance with the procedures described herein.

If practicable, post should make available to the U.S. citizen a comfortable room for the short period during which post and Department will confer about the citizen's request for temporary refuge. Consistent with these instructions, post should take steps necessary to meet the citizen's immediate needs for food and medical attention.

5. Report to and Confer with the Department

Post should report to CA/OCS/ACS, L/CA, and the relevant regional bureau immediately. Provide all information gathered from the U.S. citizen during the initial interview, along with any relevant observations about the person's appearance, demeanor, apparent emotional and psychological condition, and the overall impression he or she created. Copies of any relevant documents, photographs, or other material received from the U.S. citizen should accompany the report.

In its report to the Department, post should also communicate its own judgment about:

  • whether the U.S. citizen is in fact threatened with serious harm;
  • the likelihood that host country resources (whether governmental or non-governmental) are available that could provide the U.S. citizen with reliable protection from his or her particular articulated fear of serious harm;
  • the anticipated reaction of the host country government if the U.S. citizen is granted temporary refuge and is permitted to remain at post; and
  • (if the U.S. citizen wants to leave the host country) the practical ability of the U.S. citizen to travel under the circumstances, post's ability to assist the U.S. citizen to leave the host country, and any applicable host country legal requirements or restrictions.

If the U.S. citizen signed a Privacy Act waiver, post should fax a copy of the form to CA/ACS/OCS or note in its report to Department that the U.S. citizen declined to sign and describe the reasons he or she gave, if any, for declining signature. A person is not required to explain a decision not to sign a Privacy Act waiver.

6. Department Instruction to Grant/Deny Temporary Refuge

On the basis of the information provided by the U.S. citizen and post, the appropriate Department offices (to include CA/OCS/ACS, L, and the relevant regional bureau) will consult, involving Department principals as appropriate, to ensure a Department decision concerning whether the circumstances warrant affording temporary refuge to the U.S. citizen. CA/OCS/ACS will have the lead. Chief among the Department's considerations in this respect will be whether the requesting person will otherwise be in danger of serious harm. Department's evaluation of the request will take into account the presence or absence of alternative resources for assistance and protection, applicable host country laws, and the prevailing local conditions in which the requesting person's claimed fear of harm arises. D or an official designated by D normally will approve a final decision.

The Department will not approve requests for temporary refuge if the requesting U.S. citizen would not otherwise be in danger of serious harm or if host-country resources exist that are able reliably to protect the person from harm. Except in the narrowest of circumstances, the Department also will not grant requests for temporary refuge apparently intended to prevent or avoid the execution of the laws of a host country, even when the application of those laws may appear adverse to the interests of the U.S. citizen.

CA/OCS/ACS will respond to post with a cable approving or denying the request for temporary refuge and providing additional instructions. Interim instructions, if any, issued orally or by other means will be followed by such a cable.

7. Accommodations

When a U.S. citizen must remain on embassy or consulate grounds overnight, post should make available to the citizen appropriate space in whatever facilities are available.

Unless there is no practicable alternative, post personnel should not/not house persons granted temporary refuge in their personal quarters.

Except with the express approval of the Department, no Department employee may allow an American citizen who has been granted temporary refuge to enter or remain in any employee's home that is not located on the grounds of a consulate or embassy.

8. First Aid / Physical Exams

If the U.S. citizen states that he or she is injured or ill, post should describe the nature and extent of the injury or illness, with as much detail as possible through simple observation and by speaking with the U.S. citizen, in the initial report to the Department.

Emergency first aid may be provided by embassy/consulate personnel as directed by the Chief of Mission.

Embassy/consulate personnel should not/not conduct physical examinations related to allegations by the U.S. citizen of physical abuse (including sexual abuse), unless instructed to do so in explicit guidance from the Department.

9. Expenses

Food and basic toiletries should be provided to a U.S. citizen seeking refuge upon request, using EMDA funds. The U.S. citizen should not/not be asked to sign a promissory note for the purchase of these items. Purchases must fall within the usual guidelines for use of EMDA funds. Posts will be reimbursed for these initial expenses. Post should submit a memo itemizing such expenses as they would in any EMDA loan case, working closely with CA/OCS/ACS case officers. Post should retain corresponding receipts to the extent possible.

Post should handle expenses incurred after a U.S. citizen is granted temporary refuge, including repatriation costs, in accordance with 7 FAM 300, 'Emergency Financial and Medical Assistance for U.S. Citizens Abroad.'

In appropriate circumstances, CA/OCS/PRI will help determine whether and to what extent funds may be available to assist the U.S. citizen from U.S. state or federal crime victim compensation programs, from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or through the U.S. Department of Justice OJJDP grant program.

10. Communication with Family Members

Subject to the U.S. citizen's designations on his or her signed Privacy Act waiver form, CA/OCS/ACS will work closely with post to coordinate contact and communication with family members. The responsible consular officer normally will take the lead in interaction with the U.S. citizen's family members.

11. Communication with Media

Department will coordinate all communication with host country or other media. Under no circumstances should post personnel discuss with the media any aspect of a U.S. citizen's request for or receipt of temporary refuge except as indicated in explicit guidance from or cleared by the Department.

In any communication with media, all Department personnel must adhere strictly to the Privacy Act. If the U.S. citizen has signed a Privacy Act waiver form, Department personnel must respect any limitations indicated on the form concerning the release of protected information.

12. Contacting / Informing the Host Government

Department will coordinate with Ambassador or his/her designee to communicate with the host government.

In any communication with host government representatives, all Department personnel must adhere strictly to the Privacy Act. If the U.S. citizen has signed a Privacy Act waiver form, Department personnel must respect any limitations indicated on the form concerning the release of protected information.

13. Terminating Refuge

Posts may afford U.S. citizens temporary refuge only until appropriate arrangements for their safety are in place. Department and post will confer throughout to determine if and when circumstances warrant termination of temporary refuge by Department, which determination Department will communicate in corresponding explicit instructions.

14. Guidance Limited to Individual Refuge Requests

This guidance applies to those circumstances in which U.S. citizens seek temporary refuge for emergency protection from a harm the fear of which is specific to the person seeking refuge and to her or his individual circumstances. The instructions contained in this cable and in corresponding FAM revisions do not/not supplant the guidance and procedures set forth in 12 FAH-1 H-1500 (relating to the emergency evacuation of large numbers of U.S. citizens and other persons for whom the U.S. Government may have a responsibility), 12 FAH-1 H-1600 (relating to safe haven when large numbers of U.S. citizens are expected to arrive at post as a result of a nearby crisis), or other related guidance, unless and except as expressly indicated.