A LOCAL charity’s best efforts to make life more bearable for youngsters growing up in the shadow of Chernobyl have been threatened by UK government proposals.
The Isle of Man branch of Friends of Chernobyl Children that provides four-week respite holidays for children suffering from the lingering effects of the 1986 nuclear disaster, fears for the future of some of the girls and boys they support if new visa fees are introduced by the British government.
Families in the Isle of Man welcome a group of seven to 12-year-olds from Belarus into their homes for a month of recuperative care each summer at a cost of about £500 per child.
The new visa fee, due to be introduced by the British Government in March 2013, will add about £90 extra per child to the cost of bringing them to the island via the UK.
Until now the UK foreign and Commonwealth office have waived the visa charge for children visiting the UK and the Isle of Man for health reasons.
Norman Rivers, who is group coordinator for the Manx branch, fears that the charity could be forced to reduce the number of children it is able to help each year unless the plans are thrown out of the UK Parliament in the new year.
He said: ‘We are part of a national charity that provides aid and essential health care to around 600 children throughout the British Isles – since the disaster, we have provided a lifeline for thousands of youngsters and their struggling families whose plight has been largely forgotten by the international community.
‘If the British government proceed with their plans, they will be the only government in the whole of the EU to start charging for the children’s visas. This would mean that collectively the Friends of Chernobyl’s Children Charity will need to raise an extra £45,000.’
As a trip costs around £500 per child, and if the plans go ahead, with current funding the Friends of Chernobyl’s Children charity will be forced into reducing the number of children it helps by 90.
All other EU governments provide the visas free of charge in acknowledgment of the important work done by Chernobyl charities for these needy children.
Mr Rivers is urging people to voice their opposition to the extra cost by signing an online petition.
He explained that more than 100,000 signatures are needed before January 2013 for the issue to be debated in the UK Parliament.
To sign the petition visit www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/37945.
For further information about the charity see the website www.focc.co.im or contact Mr Rivers on 625926.