A GROUP of Palestinian children who feared their visit to North Tyneside this Sunday would be cancelled have been granted their visas in the eleventh hour.
The group of ten 12 and 13-year-olds and three teachers, due to fly in on Sunday as part of Cullercoats writer Peter Mortimer’s Shatila Theatre Trust, were hit with a bombshell earlier this week when their visa applications were refused.
Thousands of pounds had already been spent on flights and it was feared that 12 months of hard work by organisers, to prepare for the ten-day visit, had been in vain.
However, Mr Mortimer asked Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell for help and the former Home Office minister stepped in to liaise with the British Embassy in Beirut, which reviewed the applications and all 13 visas were granted this morning (Thursday).
Speaking to the News Guardian, Mr Campbell, also a patron of the Shatila Theatre Trust, said: “Once Peter Mortimer had got in touch on Tuesday, we contacted the embassy.
“They agreed to review the applications and we stayed in contact with them.
“They have now agreed to give them single entry visas, as opposed to six month visas, which will cover the ten days and they will be asked to go to the embassy in Beirut today at 2.30pm.
“I do understand that Beirut is very busy at the moment because of what is happening in Syria. They are inundated with applications and these people have been caught up in that.
“I know the original decision has caused uncertainty, but embassy staff have been fantastic. My office, and Peter through my office, worked very closely with them and once they realised what had happened they were fantastic.
“I hope it all goes well for them now.”
For the full story see next week’s News Guardian.