American Samoans plead for repatriation
Samoans stranded in America are calling on the American Samoan Government to seek assistance from the Samoa Government or take whatever action necessary to bring them home.
“The American Samoan Government can learn a thing or two from the Tuilaepa Administration; their last repatriation flight was last just Friday and I don’t know why they can't do the same for us,” said Mine Logovi’i in an phone interview with the Samoa Observer.
“They have had ten repatriation flights since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but yet we have been stuck here since February,”
She said an online platform has been formalised by American Samoans stuck overseas but they are still waiting.
“It’s puzzling why they can’t just reach out to the Prime Minister of Samoa and their health officials for assistance, because if Samoa can do so can they,” said Logovi’i.
“Samoa has limited resources yet they have managed to bring home their residents and this type of leadership is venerated.”
According to Radio New Zealand more than 300 Samoans were repatriated from Auckland to Apia on Friday, the tenth such flight since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All arriving passengers will be tested for COVID-19 and undergo 14 days of supervised quarantine.
Repatriation flights to Samoa were briefly suspended last month after New Zealand was hit with a second wave of the virus.
Meanwhile, Samoa's first planned repatriation flight from Australia to bring home students including those from Japan, China and other Asian countries, has now been rescheduled for 28 September, 2020.
Another American Samoan, Tulaga Whitcombe, echoed the same sentiments as Logovi’i.
“I understand the fear and concern, but there is a safe way to do it and if Samoa [Government] can do it with limited resources, then why can’t American Samoa with all the financial help we have received from the U.S.,” said Mr. Whitcombe.
He said that being away from families takes a toll on the mental capacity.
“The feeling of being stuck and helpless breaks you down bit by bit and you can easily get depressed,” he said.
“I had to leave (American Samoa) for medical reasons back in February, then COVID-19 happened and I couldn’t get back home.
“I can imagine those in worse circumstances, especially with finances, what they’re going through. It’s so sad.”
He added the American Samoa Government has been given a lot of money in pandemic assistance.
“They were given not thousands, but millions of dollars,” he said.
"I cannot understand why they can’t set up a testing area in Hawaii for people to get cleared to board a flight back home. It’s really starting to get a little ridiculous.”
Samoa News reports the Department of Health Director, Motusa Tuileama Nua estimated that more than 400 local residents are stuck overseas.
“And based on information [the Department of Health] received, 80 per cent of those residents traveled off island for medical reasons and most of then are seniors — 60 years and older,” Motusa said.
“However he said [the Department of Health] has received word about an elderly female of about 80-years old that also went off island for medical reasons and wants to return home.
The Department of Health’s plan would require a 10-day quarantine period in Hawaii with COVID-19 testing in Honolulu and the Pacific Health Officers Association will assist with making arrangements for testing.
He said three hotels — with room capacity of up to 180-plus for quarantine of travelers before they board the flight to Pago Pago where upon arrival the travelers will undergo the local required 14-day quarantine.
Motusa said that the first priority for repatriation is professional personnel, noting that the Government has three medical staff stranded off island. Priority two would be the stranded passengers who are local residents.
This week the American Samoa Government launched an online “repatriation registry” for American Samoa residents.