Roche to press for action on Belarus trip ban

By Ralph Riegel

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Micheal Martin will meet with Chernobyl Children's Project (CCP) founder Adi Roche today to discuss the controversial ban by the Belarusian government on children travelling on overseas aid trips.

CCP arranges for hundreds of children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to visit Irish host families each summer.

However, the programme was thrown into chaos last week when the Minsk authorities imposed a blanket ban on any children travelling on such trips.


The ban was imposed after the Belarusian government was left embarrassed by the insistence of 16-year old Tanya Kazyra that she would rather stay with her host family in the United States than return home.

Ms Roche admitted she was shocked by the ban -- and its implications for the charity work undertaken by CCP and other groups in Ireland.

Hundreds of Irish host families were left devastated by the prospect of never again seeing children that they had cared for summer after summer.

Today, Ms Roche will personally brief Mr Martin on the implications of the Minsk ban at a special meeting in Cork. CCP wants the minister and the EU to press the Belarusian authorities to re-think the ban and allow children to travel.

Irish families who volunteer their services each year to CCP warned that the suspension of the programme due to the controversial Minsk travel ban would be disastrous.

Belarusian nationals have also spoken out about the value of the host family programme.

One Belarusian girl -- Pelina Yanachkina (20) -- is studying at the University of Limerick, having travelled to Ireland each summer for 10 years.

She endorsed the host family programme as vital for hundreds of Belarusian children.

When Pelina graduates, she hopes to be able to do some work in her native country.

"Hopefully, I will be able to give something back at the end of it," she said.



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