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Highland woman stranded in Philippines as coronavirus restrictions tighten

By Val Sweeney

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Shenan Davis has found herself stranded in the Philippines.
Shenan Davis has found herself stranded in the Philippines.

A young Highland woman has found herself stranded in the Philippines as restrictions around the world tighten due to coronavirus.

Shenan Davis, whose parents Mark and Denise live near Kiltarlity, is a month into a year-long trip travelling and working in south east Asia and Oceania.

But the 24-year-old former Charleston Academy pupil found herself stuck in the province of Cebu where the authorities have announced they are moving towards a lockdown.

For the past two weeks, she and her family have spent about £3000 booking flights for her to return to the UK, only for them to be cancelled.

Her mother, a social care worker, said they were trying to get Shenan repatriated, or allocated to a safe haven for other Scottish or British people in a similar situation, but were getting no help from anyone including the UK and Scottish Governments and other agencies.

"We really do not know what to do any more to repatriate her," Ms Davis said.

"Hostels and hotels are closing in Cebu, cafés are shut, shops are beginning to shut, and visas are about to expire.

"Tourists are not guaranteed places to live or food to eat.

"So what are our governments going to do? Leave these people to become vagrants and then get imprisoned for being in the country with no money, no abode, and no valid visa?

"I really do not think the governments are taking this seriously."

Ms Davis said airlines were accepting money for new flights and then cancelling but not refunding on the spot.

One airline, for example, had said it could take up to three months to get the money back.

She spent £1800 on a flight back to the UK via Hong Kong only for that airport to announce 10 minutes later it was closing.

She also booked a flight back to Edinburgh via Dubai but then the onward flight from Dubai was suspended and she was not allowed to make the first stage of the journey.

Shenan Davis with her parents Denise and Mark.
Shenan Davis with her parents Denise and Mark.

Shenan, who gained a philosophy degree at Edinburgh University, had been working for the past two years to fund her trip and has now spent her savings on the flights.

"In a nutshell, we have exhausted funds and every possible avenue to get her home and our efforts to get help from our government have failed," her mother said.

"Other countries are managing to organise repatriation, so why aren’t we?"

She said there were other British people, including Scots, staying in the same hostel as her daughter and who had found themselves in the same predicament.

“We recognize British tourists abroad are finding it difficult to return to the UK because of the unprecedented international travel and domestic restrictions that are being introduced around the world – often with very little or no notice," she said.

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it could not comment on individual cases but added: “The FCO is working around the clock to support British travellers in this situation to allow them to come back to the UK.

"The government is seeking to keep key transit routes open as long as possible and is in touch with international partners and the airline industry to make this happen.

"Consular staff are supporting those with urgent need while providing travel advice and support to those still abroad.”

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes said: “This must be a very difficult time for Shenan Davis and her family.

"I know that it has been extremely difficult to get back home despite the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s appeals last week for people to return home as quickly as possible.

“I’ll do everything I can as her representative, but as borders close and airlines cancel flights it becomes increasingly difficult.

“I’ll do everything I can to help them get her home.”

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