Listen Download Podcast
  • RFI English News flash 04h00 - 04h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 04/25 04h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 04h10 - 04h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 04/25 04h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 05h00 - 05h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 04/24 05h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 05h10 - 05h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 04/24 05h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h00 - 06h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 04/24 06h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h10 - 06h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 04/24 06h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h30 - 06h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 04/24 06h30 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h33 - 06h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 04/24 06h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h00 - 07h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 04/24 07h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h30 - 07h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 04/24 07h30 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 04/22 14h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h06 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 04/24 14h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 14h03 - 14h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 04/22 14h03 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h06 - 14h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 04/24 14h06 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h30 - 14h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 04/24 14h30 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h33 - 14h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 04/24 14h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 04/22 16h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h06 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 04/24 16h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h03 - 16h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 04/22 16h03 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h30 - 16h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 04/24 16h30 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h33 - 17h00 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 04/22 16h33 GMT
To take full advantage of multimedia content, you must have the Flash plugin installed in your browser. To connect, you need to enable cookies in your browser settings. For an optimal navigation, the RFI site is compatible with the following browsers: Internet Explorer 8 and above, Firefox 10 and +, Safari 3+, Chrome 17 and + etc.
France

Visas-for-sale scandal hits French consulate as Hollande visit Iraqi Kurdistan

media President François Hollande at a press conference in Baghdad before flying to Arbil Friday Reuters/Ali-al-Saadi/Pool

As French President François Hollande visits the Iraqi Kurd capital, Arbil, a visas-for-sale scandal at the French consulate there has hit the headlines. Thousands of Iraqi Christians hope to take advantage of France’s offer to help them but an investigation into allegations of corruption at the consulate is under way.

An estimated 10,000 Iraqi Christians have applied to come to France since the Islamic State (IS) fundamentalist group’s offensive started three months ago.

France has promised to take in many of them and Hollande was to meet the Chaldean patriarch Louis Sako during his visit.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

Six extra staff have been sent to Arbil to handle requests to come to France, although NGOs say only about 50 have so far been successful.

They are unlikely to be asked for more than the statutory 20 euros for an appointment and should not have to pay over the odds for their visas but, according to reports in the French media, that would not have been the case a few months ago.

In April the French foreign affairs ministry asked judges to open an investigation into allegations that staff were charging hundreds of dollars for appointments and even more for visas and that requests were being channelled through a travel agents owned by the husband of an embassy employee.

The deputy consul, Ludovic Francelle, has been suspended and at least one member of local staff, Suhaila Hassan, fired.

While the consul, Alain Guépratte, is not accused of wrongdoing, he has been recalled to Paris.

According to a detailed report on the Mediapart website, the ministry’s own investigators visited Arbil in March after being alerted by Guépratte into a visas-for-cash traffic run by several consul employees.

Several witnesses told Médiapart that the inscription procedure on the consul’s website never worked and people who visited the consulate were redirected to the YellowRiver travel agency.

YellowRiver was owned by Hassan’s husband.

Witnesses claimed to have paid as much as 600 dollars for an appointment and from 800-1,700 dollars for visas.

It is unclear how long the corrupt practise was going on, although a Kurdish regional government employee told Mediapart that he had informed Guépratte’s predecessor, Frédéric Tissot, of it in 2012.

Le Monde newspaper cites sources who say that two or three local staff have been fired.

Related
 
Sorry but the period of time connection to the operation is exceeded.