US government demands an explanation about humanitarian visas

In a letter sent by the Trump administration to the Belgium’s caretaker federal government, the US authorities demand an explanation about the more than 1,500 humanitarian visas that were granted through intermediaries to Syrians while Theo Francken (Flemish nationalist) was Secretary of State with responsibility for asylum and migration.      

News of the letter appears in Saturday’s editions of the dailies ‘Het Belang van Limburg’, ‘Gazet van Antwerpen’ and ‘Het Nieuwsblad’.

Early this year the former Secretary of State  came under fire after it was revealed that 1,502 Syrians had been granted humanitarian visas through intermediaries during his time in office. Since then an investigation by the Aliens’ Office has discovered that 121 of these have disappeared.       

Of the 121 Syrians that can no longer be traced, 107 were assisted by the Mechelen city councilor Melikan Kucam. Mr Kucam is currently under investigation on suspicion of having sold humanitarian visas to people desperate to escape the violence in Syria. ‘Het Belang van Limburg’ reports that two sources within the Federal Government have confirmed that the Americans have asked the Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders (Francophone liberal) for an explanation.

Neither Mr Reynders, nor Mr Francken‘s sucessor Maggie De Block (Flemish liberal) wish to comment. It is no secret that the Trump admistration takes a hard line on immigration and the news that Syrians have been granted visas through intermediaries will have sounded alarm bells in Washington    

Currently Belgium is one of 50 “privileged countries” whose citizens can travel to the United States without a visa. A ESTA document and a valid passport, being sufficient for us to travel to the States.  

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