Family members of Americans detained abroad call on Biden administration to do more

“Every day we wonder how much longer our loved ones must endure their captivity, not knowing when they will return home, and not being able to fully understand the efforts the United States government is undertaking to secure their freedom,” the families wrote in the open letter, which was distributed by the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation.
The signatories, including those with family members detained in China, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, noted that many of them had spoken with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in February and “that call provided hope to so many families who heard this administration promise that their loved ones’ freedom was a national priority.”

“Yet as of this letter, so many of us remain in the same situation, or worse, more than 8 months later,” they wrote.

“We have not been able to meet with you or even with your National Security Advisor to discuss our loved ones’ captivity, which leads us to believe that your administration is not prioritizing negotiations and other methods to secure their release,” the families wrote. “When we do meet with other officials we feel we are being kept in the dark about what the U.S. government intends to do to free our loved ones.”

The families wrote that they feel the US “can no longer continue to be bogged down in burdensome processes or policy debates that keep our loved ones from coming home and keep us uninformed of what you can and cannot do to help us.”

“We need to be shown that the promises of your administration to prioritize the return of our family members are not empty. Now is the time for action. Now we need you to bring our fellow Americans home,” they wrote.

A National Security Council spokesperson said, “The safe and prompt release of U.S. hostages and wrongful detainees will always be a top priority, never an afterthought, in all of our foreign policy decisions.”

Among the signatories are the families of Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, both of whom are detained in Russia; the “CITGO 6” group of American oil executives who were recently taken out of house arrest in Venezuela; Majd Kamalmaz, who was detained at a checkpoint in Syria in 2017; Mark Frerichs, who was kidnapped in Afghanistan; and Paul Rusesabagina, a US resident who inspired “Hotel Rwanda” and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in Rwanda last month.

This story has been updated with comment from a spokesperson for the National Security Council.

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