Americans Caught in Greek Lockdown Left on Their Own

Αssociated press

FILE - Passengers wearing face masks wait at the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, in Athens. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – Americans who weren't able to return to the United States before a COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown in Greece closed the airport to most travel have been advised to apply for an extension to their stays that don't require visas and that the U.S. won't send flights to return them.

The U.S. Embassy in Greece issued an announcement, urging U.S. citizens to try and get an extension of stay, reported If they do not, “Greek authorities may impose a fine of 600 or 1,200 Euros ($652.19-$1304.39) per person upon departure, depending on the length of the overstay,” Embassy officials said.

Visitors are allowed to stay only 90 days unless being granted an extension and the lockdown has been extended to April 27 at least which could catch many in between the requirements.

The recommendations was to call the closest Aliens Bureau at least two weeks prior to a required departure to schedule an appointment for evaluations that are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

“There is no automatic extension of the 90-day limit because of COVID-19; you must request an extension from the Aliens Bureau or risk being fined upon departure,” the advisory added.

The Embassy also urged US citizens who intend to return to the U.S. to depart Greece as soon as possible while there are still commercial flights available because otherwise the U.S. government's wouldn't provide chartered or evacuation flights.

“So U.S. citizens in Greece may have to provide for themselves for an indefinite period of time without the possibility of government assistance,” the embassy statement said.

Normally, U.S. citizens do not need a visa for Greece or any other Schengen country in the European Union where travel is allowed without visas, for stays of up to 90 days. The COVID-19 travel restrictions and entry bans have led to the cancellation of flights, leaving thousands of US citizens abroad left to fend for themselves with no plans to bring in American aircraft to get them home.

The U.S. government stated that they are trying to bring back as many of their fellow citizens as soon as possible, but because commercial flights are not operating regularly, it has posed a problem.

The State Department said in March it would work with the U.S. Department of Defense to arrange military flights for return of stranded passengers but that hasn't happened under the administration of President Donald Trump.