Flemish nationalist party N-VA has suspended Mechelen city councillor Melikan Kucam from his functions after he was detained by police for questioning on an accusation of issuing humanitarian visas for cash. Kucam, the accusation says, sold visas for 10,000 euros each to Syrian Christians who had come to Belgium as refugees. With humanitarian visas, they could bypass the normal and lengthy asylum process.
He is charged with human trafficking, corruption and extortion,
“Given the nature of the serious accusations against Melikan Kucam, the daily management of N-VA, on a request from the Mechelen branch, has decided to suspend him with immediate effect from his functions,” the party said in a statement. “Abusing people in need is disgraceful and disgusting – there are no other words for it.”
The party would await the outcome of the investigation, the statement said, before making a final judgement. In the meantime, it expressed its support for an operation to rescue Syrian Christian who are under threat from “the terrorists of ISIS”.
Kucam is himself a member of the Assyrian community in Mechelen, and chair of the Flemish-Assyrian association. Rumours have reportedly been circulating within the community for some time that Kucam was making money from issuing humanitarian visas, and it was finally members of the community itself who filed a complaint.
Belgium regularly issues such visas to Christians in Syria and Iraq to allow them to come here, and last year then migration minister Theo Francken boasted the government of which he was still a member had saved 903 Christians this way.
“If this is true, it’s unbelievable,” Francken said yesterday on the VRT. He confirmed that Kucam had acted as an intermediary on behalf of his former department, one of several who make lists of those who fulfil the conditions for a visa.
“I put my trust in these intermediaries who make up the lists that they are not asking for money in return,” Francken said.