Belarus to be lobbied to let children travel

JAMIE SMYTH in Avignon, France

THE GOVERNMENT will lobby the authorities in Belarus to lift a ban on children affected by the Chernobyl disaster from travelling abroad for medical treatment and holidays.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin said the Irish ambassador to Belarus will travel to Minsk next week to try to persuade authorities to lift the worldwide ban, introduced when a girl from Belarus refused to leave the US.

Tanya Kazyra (16), was on her ninth, and last, visit to a family in California when she failed to board a return flight from San Francisco on August 5th. She told the Associated Press news agency last month: "I love my motherland and my grandmother. However, my life there is hard. And I have a family here."

Mr Martin said he would engage with the authorities in Belarus to try to ensure that the work of the Chernobyl Children's Project International (CCPI) could continue. Every year children from Belarus involved with CCPI travel to Ireland for rest, recuperation and treatment.

"This [the CCPI] has been an outstanding example of how Ireland can really impact on the world stage in terms of Irish people volunteering their time, work and effort to help people. We are very anxious as a government to support the Chernobyl children's project to make sure the practice and tradition of enabling children to come to Ireland for holidays, a good time and medical intervention will continue," he said at an EU meeting.

The CCPI has described the news that the government of Belarus had imposed the ban on Chernobyl children as "shocking".



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