American citizens in Beirut relying on the U.S. Department of State to provide evacuation from the conflict-ridden city are faced with high and rising costs.
A July 15 Department of State message tells U.S. citizens it will not "provide no-cost transportation." Unable to present U.S. citizens with even up-front estimates for transportation costs, the Department of State has made it known that they require evacuated citizens to sign a promissory note and will bill individuals in the near future for their emergency evacuation. The government is evacuating citizens via helicopter and ferry to Cyprus where they can board commercial airlines home.
Faerlie Wilson, an American student studying in Beirut tells ABC News, "The Department of State makes you sign a form, and then they tell you the costs after." Wilson was also familiar with another alternative for escape, taxis.
Desperate to flee at any price, citizens and tourists alike have turned to private taxi services. Taking advantage of the current crisis, taxi services have started gouging prices, charging upwards of $200, on the four-to-six hour rides to the Syrian border.
George Assoure, a dispatcher for Comet Taxi Company, explains that taxi companies equipped with a bigger staff are "taking advantage of travelers" by overcharging for what used to be a $25 to $30 ride, that used to take two hours in safer times.
However, representatives from these taxi services deny any profiteering. Justifying the $200 to $250 ride, representatives from GeriÃ¨s and Charlie Taxi pointed out that drivers are not only paying higher prices for gas, but also risking their lives.
Despite the danger to America citizens, it seems there is no cheap way out of Beirut.