In Belgium, an elected nationalist sentenced to eight years in prison for trafficking humanitarian visas

Former ministerial adviser Melikan Kucam, in Antwerp (Belgium), November 30, 2020.

Melikan Kucam, a municipal politician from the nationalist Alliance néoflamande (N-VA) party, was sentenced Tuesday, January 12, to eight years in detention by the Antwerp court for having provided, in return for payment, humanitarian visas to 246 Christians from Syria. to reach Belgium.

Arrested in January 2019 and indicted for corruption, fraud and trafficking in human beings, the defendant was responsible for establishing the lists of potential beneficiaries of the right to asylum on behalf of the office of the Secretary of State for Migration, Theo Francken (N-VA), where he was employed.

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To include their name on the list, Melikan Kucam demanded families from 2,000 euros to 7,500 euros per person, while a normal procedure for obtaining a humanitarian visa costs, in Belgium, some 350 euros. The operation, carried out in collusion with his son and his wife – sentenced to forty-eight months and forty months respectively – would have brought in a total of 522,000 euros. If the Syrians – mostly of Assyrian origin, like the Kucam family – refused to pay, they were threatened with deportation to their country at war.

An embarrassing conviction

The case, discovered somewhat by chance, during an investigation into drug trafficking, illustrated the shortcomings of the policy for granting humanitarian visas and the lack of control exercised by the Immigration Office, which yet flatters himself with great rigor. The leading role of Mr. Kucam in the cabinet of the Secretary of State, coupled with the fact that Mr. Francken presented him as “A great guy”, no doubt explains the leniency of officials.

The Secretary of State, who expressed his sympathies for Donald Trump, was a supporter of a very tough immigration policy. He was also one of the resolute opponents of the Marrakesh Pact, whose adoption by Belgium had led to his departure – and that of his party – from the government of Charles Michel, in December 2018.

Asked Wednesday morning, former Secretary of State Theo Frencken said he bore “political responsibility” for the case.

The conviction of his former colleague, a decision he says he applauds today, is all the more embarrassing for Theo Francken as a hundred people received in Belgium have not finally submitted an asylum application. Some have done so in neighboring countries, while others have simply disappeared from radar.

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