Belarus kids banned from visits

Many families were affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986

Children who suffered as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster have been banned from visiting Northern Ireland for medical treatment.

The Belarussian government made the decision to introduce a worldwide ban after a girl who was visiting the US for treatment refused to return home.

Maureen Brady from Londonderry has looked after Belarussian girls for the last two summers.

"The children deserve to have these benefits, it's a matter of health."

The Chernobyl children have become a familiar sight in the north west, and the rest of the country, over the summer as thousands travel to Ireland each year for recuperation.

Paul Carlisle, the chairman of the Chernobyl Children's Project Foyle said he was shocked when he heard the news.

"It was quite a surprise, I got an e-mail stating the government had banned children from travelling for rest and recuperation."

Mr Carlisle said he has questioned the decision by the Belarussian government to stop them from travelling when the objective is to help sick children

"Our organisation works so hard, not just to bring the children here but to raise money for orphanages, equipment and activities that we send out there."

Maureen and her husband Vinny said they decided to become a host family after friends got involved with the scheme.

"We can't actually believe this is happening," Vinny said.

"It's just very sad because what we as a family get out of it is immense, but what the children get in terms of healthcare and a little bit of happiness is just tremendous."

In 2004 a similar worldwide ban was put in place but restrictions were lifted after various governments, including the Irish stepped in.

Adi Roache, chief executive of The Chernobyl Children's Project International (CCPI), has brought thousands of Belarussian children to Ireland through the organisation since 1991.

Ms Roache has requested that the Irish foreign minister look into the issue to seek an exemption.



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