Chernobyl charity hits out at blow to ‘lifeline’

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A CHARITY that provides respite breaks in Yorkshire to children from the region once hit by the fallout from the world’s worst nuclear disaster claims Government plans to withdraw free visas will cut a vital lifeline.

The Halifax and Bradford link of Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline claims the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s plans to charge £86 for each visa from 2013 take advantage of charities that provide recuperative trips to the UK for youngsters from Belarus and the Ukraine.

In both nations, a generation not even born when the Ukranian power plant’s fourth reactor exploded on April 26, 1986, are still more likely to have diseases linked to radiation and suffer from extreme poverty.

Researchers claim just a month in a “clean” environment such as the UK can boost their health and lengthen their lifespan by a year.

Link chairwoman Angela Bottomley, who organises annual trips for the children to stay with host families in West Yorkshire, including her own, said: “Once these charges are introduced it will cost in the region of £86 extra per child to bring them to the UK for their short visit.

“For our group of 12 this year that would have been an extra £1,032 that we would have had to raise locally.

“What this actually means is that local links will inevitably have to reduce the amount of children they bring in order to still fund the visit.”

Mrs Bottomley, of Exley, Halifax, has just returned from a week in the Ukraine with the charity, where she travelled areas affected by the Chernobyl disaster.

The charity has launched an e-petition against the visa plans and needs 100,000 signatures to trigger a House of Commons debate on the issue. Visit www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/37945.

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