A charity which provides respite to children suffering the after-effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is under threat due to government cutbacks.
A new visa fee is being proposed which will add an extra £86 onto the £500 it currently costs to bring over each child from Belarus for a month-long holiday.
Families across Derbyshire welcome children from the former Soviet state into their homes each summer and until now the visa charges have been waived.
Richard Street, chairman of Chernobyl Children’s Life Line’s Pinxton and East Derbyshire Link, which covers the Chesterfield area, said: “When the children come to the UK we are able to give them a good diet and clear fresh air to breathe which boosts their immune system for up to two years.”
John Pashley, of the Link, added: “We have been hosting for five years and it’s been absolutely brilliant. When they first come over a lot look pale and ill and can’t play but as the months go on they get stronger.”
During their visit the children are given vitamins, clothing, and appointments with dentists and opticians.
Chris Broome chairman of Derbyshire Dales Link said: “No other country in Europe charges its own charities for children’s visas in this way. It will be yet another embarrassment for the UK within Europe if this funding is withdrawn.”
The charity has launched an E-Petition and if they gather more than 100,000 signatures before January 2013, the issue will be debated in Parliament.
The link to the petition is: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/37945 so far over 5,000 people have pledged support.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office plans to charge up to £86 for each child from April 2013.
Belarus received around 70 per cent of the nuclear contamination from the disaster in 1986.
The country still faces a range of illnesses including deformities, cancers and many more diseases linked to radiation as well as extreme poverty.