Derry’s MP has criticised a decision by the UK government to end free visas for Chernobyl children.
Mark Durkan said the UK government’s decision to end the free visas - necessary for recuperative breaks for the children who live with the after-effects of radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster - and instead charge £80 was “hard hearted.”
Locally, a group of 25 kids are due to arrive in Derry and Donegal for a four week break in July as guests of the Chernobyl Children International’s Foyle & Inishowen Outreach Group.
“I deplore the decision by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to end free visas for the Chernobyl children from March 2013,” the SDLP MP said.
“This hard-hearted and insensitive move threatens the future of these vital recuperative visits, which are not only great fun for the children involved but importantly help to boost their immune systems and improve their health.
He added:“In contrast, the Irish Government issue the relevant visa without any charge, meaning that these children can come to Donegal for their trip but have to pay the British Government should they wish to visit Derry.
“Those parents who have opened up their homes to these children on both sides of the border are rightly perplexed at these circumstances. “
Mr Durkan said he has written to the British Immigration Minister Mark Harper “urging the government to reconsider its decision, and to continue granting free visas which will enable these children to have the recuperative breaks they so badly need.”