Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Re: Belarus Children’s Programmes
Some of you may be aware by now of good news in respect of the new agreement that has been reached between the Belarusian and United Kingdom governments on the conditions for the continuation of organised visits to the UK for children affected by the Chernobyl contamination. I hope this will now enable your Summer visits to go ahead.
The agreement will be published in Parliament following the recess and you might like to take some time to read it and to ensure that you are acting consistently with it as you continue to carry out your valuable work in the future. We envisage that the main obligations on you, for example to pay the travel expenses, provide insurance and to carry out appropriate checks on the host families will be things that you already do.
In addition to the agreement, the duties on United Kingdom charities carrying out this work, as set out again in recent correspondence you have received from the British Embassy in Minsk continue to apply so that, for example: the requirements of Para 46A of the Immigration Rules requiring suitable arrangements for the children’s care and reception in the United Kingdom must be met; biometrics must be provided in respect of children over the age of 5; visa application forms must be completed in full including contact details of hosts and parents or guardians (with up to date CRB checks in respect of the former and an additional letter of consent to be provided from the latter) and information on a child’s schooling must be given, including a letter from the school in respect of any term time travel.
You will also need to continue to tell us whether this is a first or subsequent visit and given the terms of last October’s Presidential decree, we will be needing to monitor the number of organised visits that any given child participates in, as the Belarusian government will henceforth be limiting the number of visits to three per receiving state. As you may remember however, Belarusian Embassy representatives informed you recently at your Solihull conference that they believed this to mean no more than three visits from the time the agreement comes into force.
The suspension of visits on organised travel groups for those children in the 14 and over age group will continue for now but we will continue to engage with the Belarusians on this issue in the future.
At the same time, I would also like to remind you all of your ongoing obligations to ensure that you continue to act in accordance with the various United Kingdom laws that impact on your work including those relating to health and safety, discrimination and the safeguarding of vulnerable persons.
If you have any queries about the agreement or your legal obligations please contact:
International Policy Directorate
UK Border Agency