Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Children's Visit Hit by New Visa Delay; Pounds 8,000 in Air Fares at Risk after Setback

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Children's Visit Hit by New Visa Delay; Pounds 8,000 in Air Fares at Risk after Setback

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Black

ATROUBLE-plagued visit to the North East by children from a Palestinian refugee camp has suffered another hitch after British Embassy staff were unable to issue visas on time.

The 10 youngsters and three teachers from the Shatila camp in Beirut were due to arrive in the region yesterday after an earlier decision to refuse them entry visas was overturned.

They turned up at the British Embassy in Beirut with their passports on Friday as required, only to be told that it would not be possible to issue visas immediately, and the process would take until early this week.

Organisers of the trip - from North Tyneside-based charity Shatila Theatre Trust - are hoping to find out today when the youngsters and their teachers will finally be able to fly to the UK.

The original visa refusal, and subsequent delay, means the party's carefully-planned 10-day itinerary in the North East will now have to be reorganised.

And it is likely part of the pounds 8,000 already paid for air fares will be lost as a result of having to change the block booking.

Cullercoats-based writer Peter Mortimer, who helped set up the Shatila Theatre charity and is one of the organisers of the cultural trip, has written to the embassy expressing his "shock and disbelief" at the delay in issuing visas.

Last night he said it is now hoped the 13-strong party will get their visas today and arrive in the region no later than tomorrow. The Journal revealed last week that entry to the UK had been denied to the 12-year-old children for what would be the third visit of Shatila camp youngsters to the region in the last four years.

After we took up the case along with Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell, who is patron of the Shatila Theatre Trust, the UK Border Agency decision was reversed, and the party told to report to the British Embassy on Friday to be issued with single-entry visas for the trip. …

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