My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not held any recent discussions with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on this matter, but officials propose to hold a stakeholder meeting in the very near future at which these issues will be raised.
The Government recognise the value and benefit of allowing children who have been affected by Chernobyl to visit the UK for respite care. This is an important programme and we will continue to support the charitable work both in the UK and Belarus that facilitates these visits. In consultation with the charities we are actively looking for ways to minimise any difficulties that the introduction of biometrics might create. We had sought to establish a seasonal visa application centre (VAC) in Gomel Oblast through our commercial partner, Visa Facilitation Services (VFS). This would have provided a more convenient visa application point and a shorter journey for some of these children. Unfortunately, we have not been able to secure permission from the Belarus Government to allow our commercial partner to operate. Those living in southern Belarus might find it easier to travel to the VAC in Kiev, Ukraine to lodge their applications. Our embassy in Kiev will make the necessary arrangements to cater for individuals or groups.