British immigration officials have been denying charity holidays to Belarusian and Ukrainian children from areas affected by the Chernobyl disaster, Britain's The Independent newspaper has said.
British charities have invited thousands of young people from the ex-Soviet countries that were badly hit by the 1986 nuclear catastrophe, to spend holidays with British families, the newspaper said.
Now, the initiative is being jeopardized by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), which denies the children visas, The Independent said.
Particularly, last month only seven of 17 children, whose trips to Britain's Isle of Wight were organized by Chernobyl Children's Life Line (CCLL), were allowed to enter the country. The other 10 were told the night before the trip that their holidays were cancelled, the paper said.
Another UK charity, Medicine and Chernobyl, has also reported at least eight visa denials this year, RIA Novosti reported.
The British border agency was quoted by The Independent as saying such steps are driven by child safety.
The catastrophe at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, one of the world's worst man-made disasters, occurred on April 26, 1986. A plume of radioactive fallout was released into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including the western Soviet Union and most of Europe, as a result of a powerful explosion.
Children living in the affected areas continue to be at greater risk of terminal illnesses because of the contaminated environment, the paper said. "A month in Britain, where they can eat cleaner food, breathe cleaner air and build up strength, can greatly improve life expectancy," the report said.