By Cara SuliemanTALKS are under way in an attempt to save trips by Chernobyl children to Scotland for their annual summer respite holiday after they were banned by their country’s President.
Alexander Lukashenko stopped all recuperative trips overseas after a teenage girl refused to leave the US after her time there last summer.
Now back home, she caused a backlash from the government who implemented the ban in order to protect their young people.
Resolving the issue
But there’s hope now for the hundreds of children who come to Scotland every year as the UK Borders Agency are trying to resolve the situation with Belarussian authorities.
It means that there is a good chance that children who visit the country every year for a month in summer will still be able to do so this year.
But there are concerns that the complex rules surrounding the agreement will still leave some children unable to take their annual holiday.
Lisa Brown, chair of Chernobyl Children Lifeline thinks it is a “tragedy” that the children might not be able to visit her and her group in Aberdeenshire this year.
She said: “I have seen firsthand the conditions the children have to endure in Belarus and it is terrible. It is a once in a lifetime experience for them.”
It is important for the kids to get a break not only from the radiation in their country, but also from the hardships that many of them face in their day to day lives.
Linda Walker, the national co-ordinator for Chernobyl Children Project, is worried about the kids that will be left out.
She said: “The visits are an important part of the recovery process for many of the children who are suffering from a variety of medical conditions including cancer and leukaemia.
“If the agreement goes through as it stands then teenagers aged between 15 and 17 still won’t be able to visit.
“Although we will be able to invite all other age groups, this still leaves potentially hundreds of children without the chance to recuperate in a healthy country.”
Only last year, the Singing Kettle in Edinburgh treated a group of young kids from Belarus to a private performance.
It is trips like this that are organised by the various charities across the UK so improve the quality of life for the Chernobyl youngsters.
Artie Tresize, MBE, of the Singing Kettle, said: “We were really pleased to be invited to come along to such a worthy event.
“These kids, and their families, have obviously been through an awful trauma over the last decade, and they need to have something to brighten up their lives.
“Most people are uplifted by music and if we can bring just a little sunshine into these kid’s lives then we will have done our job.”
Worst nuclear meltdown
The Chernobyl disaster on 26 April 1986 is considered to be the world’s worst ever nuclear meltdown.
The accident released 190 tons of highly radioactive waste material into the atmosphere exposing the people of Chernobyl to radioactivity 90 times greater than that from the explosion of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.