Family from ‘paradise island’ still stranded in Scotland 9,000 miles from home

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A family from a "paradise island" in the South Pacific has spent the whole coronavirus pandemic in a village in Scotland.

Grandfather Amosa Soani, 60, his son Tumau Amosa, 31, and eight-year-old Vatau Fakavae have been in Stair, Ayreshire, after numerous flights back to their home in Tuvalu were cancelled due to the global crisis.

The child has joined a primary school during their 14-month stay such as been their long wait to make the 9,000-mile return trip home, the Daily Record reports.

The family travelled to Scotland in November 2019 from their home island of Nanumanga, one of nine that make up Tuvalu. It has a population of less than 500.

The trip was supposed to last six months with a return booked in May 2020, but the pandemic saw the UK plunged into a national lockdown and seeing travel plans thrown into chaos.

Amosa, who is a chief in his home village, was visiting his sister Nafiata and took along his relatives.

Nafiata moved from Nanumanga with her husband Neil McNaughton in 1976 when they set up home in the village of Stair.

The couple offered up their home to the relatives from the other side of the world, who had never been on a plane before.

The family told Ayrshire Live of their struggle to find a route home, with connecting flights from Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Australia all cancelled.

Neil McNaughton said: "There was an opportunity for a six-month holiday, it was a once in a lifetime holiday for them.

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"Tuvalu is a really remote place in the South Pacific.

"The plan was the family would stay with my mum and dad for the duration, it was only meant to be six months – it’s now nearly two years that they have been here."

During their visit, Neil's adopted sister and her family from Samoa, another island in the South Pacific, jetted over but they returned in January 2020 when only a handful of Covid-19 cases were being reported.

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Now the family is pinning their homes on a return home on July 1, but they face an anxious wait with Fiji on the verge of its own coronavirus crisis. It is entering a two-week lockdown.

The trio also face more struggle with a US visa required to commute through Los Angles on route to the South Pacific.

Neil said they want British Airways to assure them they will get them back home when it is safe to do so.

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Tamua and Amosa spoke to Ayrshire Live via video link, with Nafiata translating.

They said: "We cannot complain, it's not going to help, we are just facing it.

"We know one day we will be able to leave.

"It has been different living here but we have gotten used to it, we are grateful to have a warm house and enough clothes to keep us warm as it can be very cold.

"Even though we wish to return home, we will miss our Scottish family."

A spokesperson for British Airways said: "We are sorry, like other airlines, due to the current coronavirus pandemic and global travel restrictions, we are operating a reduced and dynamic schedule.

"We have been in contact with the customer and discussed their options."

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