Chernobyl children arrive despite visa scare

Children from an area affected by the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl made it over to Crow country, despite a late scare that their trip might be cancelled.

Many children from regions in Belarus and Ukraine that were due to visit with various groups throughout the UK had been denied visas by the UK Border Agency, meaning they missed out on vital health check-ups, collecting medical supplies, and a holiday break.

The Border Agency had introduced tougher measures this year because of “child safety”, even though all the families who were denied the chance to look after children had up-to-date Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks, and many were former foster parents.

Visas for some children had been denied as late as the night before they were due to set off.

However, organisers at the South Cambridgeshire branch of Friends of Chernobyl Children (FOCC) were relieved to learn their allocated children would make it over for their month-long trip.

The children are staying with families in Royston and Melbourn.

Many have travelled to Crow country before, and organiser Jo Cheetham-Desmarais has noticed improvements in their health.

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She said: “The colour in their skin compared to photos of them from last year is so much better.

“Their teeth are in a healthier condition too.

“Many people from their area do not have teeth at all, so this is great progress.

“A dentist in Buntingford was kind enough to give them free checks, and one girl had to have wisdom teeth removed.

“We also took them for a free eye test in Royston, which was a fantastic help.

“People like these make all the difference.”

There are a variety of trips laid on for the children.

Mrs Cheetham-Desmarais said: “They were allowed into Shepreth Wildlife Park for free, which was very kind of them.

“They also visited Bassingbourn Snowsport Centre.

“They have trips to Chessington World of Adventures, Center Parcs and the Territorial Army centre in Cambridge coming up.

“They will also go punting, and visit the seaside on two occasions.”