Thursday, July 31, 2014

15 suspected Eritrean illegal immigrants arrested at M4 services near Reading - Get Reading


Police arrested 10 men and two women, and three males believed to be minors were taken into social services care





A group of 15 suspected illegal immigrants from the African nation of Eritrea were arrested at the M4 services near Reading.
Police arrested 10 men and two women, aged between 22 and 29, at the services on Friday, July 25,.
Four of the men and both women remain in custody pending questioning by immigration officers. The other six men have been placed on immigration bail while their cases are progressed.
Three males, believed to be minors, were taken into social services care after being age assessed.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We work closely with police to tackle illegal immigration.
“Where someone is found to have no legal right to remain in the UK we will take action to remove them.”
Eritrea is located on the horn of Africa, north of Ethiopia and south west of the Red Sea, with a population of around 5.6 million.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Eritrean authoritarianism and human trafficking in the Sinai | defenceWeb


Eritrean children.On the world map, there is no such thing as an ‘ungoverned space,’ bar the two poles and our woefully under-regulated oceans. It is a neat, practical system, where all land is accounted for and all people know where they belong. That’s the theory, at least. The reality is a little different. 



A lot different, in fact – especially in parts of Africa, where governance is poor or non-existent, borders are permeable, people hold multiple identities and the illegal can flourish far away from regulation and the rule of law.



Understanding how these ungoverned spaces function, and how they are connected, is key to understanding the factors that drive some of Africa’s most serious problems, including transnational terrorism and crime. An example that illustrates this phenomenon – and provides a few clues to policymakers on how to approach these problems – is the link between authoritarianism in Eritrea and human trafficking in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.



A staggering number of Eritreans have already fled their country, and more seek to join these refugees and asylum-seekers every day. As of January 2014, the United Nations (UN) estimated that there were 308 000 Eritreans outside of Eritrea – nearly 5% of the country’s total population.



It’s not hard to figure out why so many Eritreans have left and many remain desperate to follow. Those who didn’t flee the decades-long civil war, or the brutal post-independence conflict with Ethiopia, now have to contend with a regime in which political space is non-existent, economic prospects are virtually nil and a programme of indefinite national conscription is effectively a form of indentured servitude, often lasting eight years or more.



But escaping Eritrea isn’t so easy. Even those who manage to cross the border, where guards are authorised to shoot on sight, find themselves in an extremely vulnerable position. Those who make it into Ethiopia are relatively lucky, as the Ethiopian government has in recent years allowed Eritreans to work and study there (in preparation to return home if and when the situation changes). For those escaping into Sudan, the situation is far more dangerous.



In a country where they don’t understand the laws, speak the language or, often, share the local religion, refugees are at the mercy of smugglers to get them to a place where they think they’ll be safe. There are two main routes: into Italy through Libya, or into Israel through the Sinai. Even if all goes according to plan, their journeys are incredibly dangerous, and many don’t make it. Furthermore, and increasingly in recent years, would-be migrants are hijacked by human trafficking rings.



Human smuggling is not the same thing as human trafficking. Human smuggling is a transport service, albeit illegal and dangerous, where refugees pay to be moved somewhere else. It is a voluntary activity, whereas human trafficking involves coercion – people are tricked or kidnapped, and then either sold on or extorted for money.



It can be a lucrative business. Usually, victims are sold several times to successive groups as they slowly make their way north, before finally ending up in captivity in the Sinai. (Increasingly, anecdotal reports suggest that Libya is also a destination for human traffickers, but there is little research as yet to back this up.) Here they are beaten, starved and tortured until their families agree to hand over ransom money, which can be as much as US$40 000.



The numbers are staggering: according to the European Parliament, between 25 000 and 30 000 people were trafficked through the Sinai between 2009 and 2013, 95% of whom were from Eritrea (nearly 10% of the total Eritrean refugee population); and as of March 2014, an estimated 1 000 people have been trapped in trafficking compounds in the area.



Crucial to the success of this trade is the involvement of criminal elements within nomadic Bedouin communities in Egypt, which have long operated outside the reach of the state, and within the semi-nomadic Rashaida tribe in Sudan and Eritrea, for whom borders are largely irrelevant. Similarly, in the Sahel it is the itinerant Tuareg tribe that is most often associated with illicit, cross-border trade.



‘Today, what you’ve got is really an intersection of smuggling and the very lucrative side-line of trafficking, and a set of networks that stretch all the way across the Sahel. They often cooperate with one another and overlap with various organised crime syndicates and, at times, slide into extreme politics,’ said Dan Connell, a journalist and academic who has been researching the issue, in an interview with ISS Today. ‘It’s a complex, interlocking network that runs from East to West Africa. Eritreans find themselves, by dint of circumstances, having to negotiate their way across it.’



It’s not just human trafficking, either. The same networks move cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and guns, and also have connections to various Islamist extremist groups operating in the area. It’s a lucrative trade and enables the establishment of corrupt links with border guards and the military, as well as the purchasing of weapons and communication gear by the traffickers.



This is particularly true in the Sinai, where Islamist militants have been responsible for a slew of attacks and bombings, and have also been the target of a heavy-handed military crackdown from Egyptian authorities. Given the illicit nature of both activities, it’s difficult to pinpoint a direct link between them. It’s fair to say, however, that the same conditions – poor governance, endemic poverty and corruption, and a sense of alienation from the state – encourage both to thrive.



‘There is an overlap between the smugglers, traffickers and Islamists. They take advantage of each other, they shift back and forth,’ said Connell. He points out, however, that much of the resistance to trafficking within the Sinai itself comes from more moderate Islamist groups, who are appalled by the practice.



The interconnected, amorphous character of the criminal networks involved, coupled with the transnational nature of the crime, have serious implications for how to solve the human trafficking problem. ‘At this point, most of the resources going into smuggling and trafficking of people, is aimed at stopping them from [reaching] their final destination. It’s not aimed at dismantling the networks that are getting them there, or stabilising the situations they are leaving from. From a security standpoint, the right approach here is to go back along that chain and try to wind it down at every point that you can, and if you can’t stop it at least you can contain it,’ concludes Connell.



Berouk Mesfin, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa, agrees – adding that Egypt alone cannot solve the problem, even though that is where trafficked victims usually end up. Instead, a concerted regional effort is required – along with cooperation from both Eritrea and Sudan. This, he says, is unlikely, especially given reports that elements within the Eritrean military are actually profiting from the trafficking operations.



The trafficking of Eritrean refugees, through Sudan and Egypt and the vast swathes of ungoverned space that make it possible, illustrates that borders are not sacrosanct, and that sovereignty is often a theoretical concept. If policymakers are to find a solution, they must come to the same realisation.



Written by Simon Allison, ISS Consultant

Monday, July 28, 2014

Eritrea diplomatic rapprochement with Yemen at the expense of Adargachew

Recently the Eritrean based  Ethiopian opposition leader Adargachew Tsge is rendered to Ethiopia on his trip to Eritrea via Yemen. Many Ethiopians in Diaspora speculated a backlash in the relation of the tow nation. In the contrary the Eritrean regime recently send a new ambassador to Yemen and wormed up their rapprochement leaving behind   past conflict on the tiny island on the Red Sea.



The Yemeni Deputy Foreign Minister Amir al-Aidaros received a copy of credentials of a new Eritrean ambassador Mohammed Sheikh Abdul Jalil.
The announcement came as a relief to a country on edge and worried about how the Fishing boats issues and border dispute would resolve itself.
During the diplomats meeting in Sanaa, both diplomats reviewed the bilateral cooperation and relations between the two neighbouring countries.
The Yemeni deputy foreign minister stressed that the foreign Ministry will provide all diplomatic support and cooperation to facilitate his diplomatic mission in the country.

Italian diplomat who conducted shuttle diplomacy between the two neighbouring Yemen and Eritrean countries warned that much work still remained.
“This will be still a difficult road because there are important obligations required and difficult decisions to be made,” Italian diplomat told Geeska Afrika Online reporter after briefing Eritrean’s current president, Isaias Afwerki, shortly after his visist last month.
Speaking alongside Isaias Afwerki at the Presidential Palace, Italian diplomat said the democracy springing up in Eritrea “deserved its full bloom.” Italy offered robust support to ensure the regional security deal holds to minimize Ethio-Eritrean media war.
GirmaAsmerom_Berhane
Ambassador Mohammed Sheikh Abdul Jalil also said the fishing boats created “serious diplomatic challenges.” But ambassador al-Aidaros said,  “Stability is the desire of both Yemen and Eritrea,” Mohammed added his statement,  “Our diplomatic partnership aim is simple: both countries are committed to the most diplomatic dialogue any threats that emerges between the two countries” according to its history.
Source Photo:  Eritrean ambassador to the AU, H.E. Girma Asmerom debating with Ethiopian Minister for Foreign Affairs Berhane Gebre-Christos


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Eritrea is still holding 863 Yemeni fishing boats since 2006, official says - Saba Net - Yemen news agency





[19/July/2014]



SANA'A, July 19 (Saba)- The Eritrean authorities are still holding nearly 863 Yemeni fishing boats since 2006, Secretary General of the Fisheries Cooperative Union Ali Bhidar has said.



Bhidar pointed out in a statement to Saba that the activity of Yemeni fishermen in the south of the Red Sea faces a lot of difficulties due to seizing their boats by some neighboring countries, especially in the Horn of Africa.



He called on the concerned government authorities to do their part in protecting the Yemeni fishermen and follow up the activation of memoranda of understanding signed with neighboring countries in the field of fish.



In this regard, Bhidar stressed at the same time the need to expedite the signing of similar memoranda of understanding with the rest of the neighboring countries and in particular Eritrea.



BA

Saba

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hundreds of foreigners from Ethiopia, Somalia & Eritrea holed up in South Sudan camps - IRIN Africa |


By Stephen Graham 
JUBA, 14 July 2014 (IRIN) - Among the 100,000 civilians holed up in UN bases in South Sudan since fighting broke out in mid-December 2013 between supporters and opponents of President Salva Kiir are several hundred citizens from Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Many have lost the means to resume their precarious lives in the world’s youngest nation, and so cannot return to their home countries for fear of persecution or imprisonment.

The fate of the foreigners is an extra headache for government officials and relief agencies trying to assist nearly 1.5 million others displaced by the violence. Aid workers warn that famine will strike some areas of South Sudan in the coming months unless more humanitarian assistance is provided.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, remains one of the world’s poorest countries. However, it had been enjoying an economic boom fuelled by oil revenues and international development assistance, and had attracted thousands of investors, traders and labourers from across eastern Africa.

Many hotels and restaurants in Juba are owned by Eritreans, who are also said to dominate the water trucking business in many cities. Somalis are said to be prominent in supplying fuel. Officials say many foreign workers lack official residency or work permits, while the Commission for Refugee Affairs is still establishing itself.

After fighting broke out in December, the governments of Kenya and Uganda sent planes to evacuate their stranded nationals. Uganda used the need to protect its citizens to partly justify its deployment of troops  to secure the capital and prop up Kiir’s government.

Sara Basha of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it had helped repatriate more than 100 other foreigners to their home countries, including many Sudanese citizens. IOM brought the foreigners to Juba, from where the evacuees’ embassies were responsible for their onward transport.

However, she said some embassies lacked the funds to send their citizens back home. “So even if we bring them to Juba we are just moving them from one location to another and there is no solution for them,” Barra told IRIN.

Many of those in the IDP camp at UN House, the world body’s main compound in Juba, say they have no wish to be repatriated.

Eritreans

Simon Tesfazghi, a leader of the 250 Eritreans he said lived in the camp, said he had fled Eritrea in 2013 after seven years of gruelling military service. Another reason was that Eritrean authorities did not allow him to practice his Protestant faith freely, he said.

Tesfazghi said it was unthinkable for the Eritreans to go back to their country, or to return to South Sudanese towns such as Bor and Bentiu, which were destroyed in the fighting and where foreigners had been harassed and robbed by gunmen from both sides. He said his community would like to be recognized as refugees and taken to another country.

“How long will we have to sit here? We are foreigners, not citizens of this country. Who can find a solution for us?”

John Dabi, deputy commissioner for refugee affairs, said the South Sudanese government acknowledged that the Eritreans could not easily return home.

The UN's top human rights body last month launched an investigation into alleged abuses in Eritrea, including extrajudicial executions, torture and forced military conscription. The USA has long listed Eritrea as a “Country of Particular Concern” for its “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom.

Dabi said that after the crisis in South Sudan began he wrote to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, proposing that Eritreans living in the UN camps be granted “temporary protection” while a mechanism was established to examine their individual cases.

"We don't want to be here, using stinking latrines and begging for everything."
Under laws passed in 2012, South Sudan currently only recognizes refugees from particular areas of Sudan, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

But Dabi said the temporary protection plan was hastily put on ice after it triggered rumours that swept through the Eritrean and other foreign communities that they would be granted refugee status and resettled in the USA, prompting a deluge of new registrations at the camp.

“Everyone came running in and claiming the same status,” Dabi told IRIN. “If it is just a handful of people - 80 or 100 - you can deal with it, but if you are talking of several thousand it becomes difficult to manage... They all wanted to get into a third country as soon as possible.”

He said the plan to grant the Eritreans temporary protection would be revisited only once the Commission and UNHCR had established a committee to determine applicants’ eligibility for refugee status. But there were no plans to do this for Ethiopians or Somalis.

Ethiopians


One of the displaced, Farouk Kedir, said many of the 160 Ethiopians in the camp at UN House had fled to South Sudan for political reasons. He said Ethiopian authorities had left them alone while they were living unobtrusively in provincial towns, but that grouping them together in Juba had drawn unwanted attention.

“Now that we are all together here, [it is easier to] follow us more closely,” Kedir told IRIN.
He claimed that three people from the community who had ventured outside the camp had been kidnapped, and another killed by unidentified attackers.

A group of four men had come to their section of the camp a month earlier and begun taking photographs of the displaced people, Kedir said. Residents challenged them and a scuffle broke out before the men fled.

“We can’t go outside to run our businesses as we did before,” Kedir said. “And we cannot go back to Ethiopia. We would be killed or imprisoned.”

He said community leaders had reported their situation to UN officials, and asked the world body to take them to “any” safe country.

Somalis

Abdul Aziz Ismail, a Somali community leader, said there were 300 Somalis at UN House.
He said some of them had been in South Sudan for over 20 years, having fled from the long wars racking their home country.

“We were already displaced. Now we are displaced again, but nobody is taking any notice,” Ismail said in an interview in a makeshift tea-shop in the camp, flanked by dozens of his compatriots. “We don’t want to be here, using stinking latrines and begging for everything.”

He said it was dangerous for any man to return to Somalia. “If you come from the outside, people will think you are a spy. They will take you away and behead you.”

“Beggars have no choices. If we had a choice, we would have taken it. Now we do not know what we should do.”

Ismail said foreigners who left the camp tended to draw the attention of nervous South Sudanese security forces. The fact that many lacked official documents left them vulnerable to harassment, abuse and extortion, he said.

Still, he said hundreds of Somalis had left the camp as the situation in Juba had stabilized, particularly those with businesses and support networks in the capital.

Dabi argued that many more of the foreigners in the camps would be safe to do likewise.

“Nobody is targeting them. They can go back to whatever business they were doing before,” he said.

South Sudanese authorities had no plans to expel foreigners inside their borders, or to tax their business activities, he said.

In the meantime, Dabi said foreign civilians should be granted the same assistance as displaced South Sudanese. While the focus is currently on protection, he said there were discussions under way with international partners about how to help people restore their livelihoods.

sg/cb
Theme (s)ConflictRefugees/IDPs,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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Hundreds of foreigners from Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea holed up in South Sudan camps - RIN Africa |

Hundreds of foreigners holed up in South Sudan camps

By Stephen Graham 
JUBA, 14 July 2014 (IRIN) - Among the 100,000 civilians holed up in UN bases in South Sudan since fighting broke out in mid-December 2013 between supporters and opponents of President Salva Kiir are several hundred citizens from Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Many have lost the means to resume their precarious lives in the world’s youngest nation, and so cannot return to their home countries for fear of persecution or imprisonment.

The fate of the foreigners is an extra headache for government officials and relief agencies trying to assist nearly 1.5 million others displaced by the violence. Aid workers warn that famine will strike some areas of South Sudan in the coming months unless more humanitarian assistance is provided.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, remains one of the world’s poorest countries. However, it had been enjoying an economic boom fuelled by oil revenues and international development assistance, and had attracted thousands of investors, traders and labourers from across eastern Africa.

Many hotels and restaurants in Juba are owned by Eritreans, who are also said to dominate the water trucking business in many cities. Somalis are said to be prominent in supplying fuel. Officials say many foreign workers lack official residency or work permits, while the Commission for Refugee Affairs is still establishing itself.

After fighting broke out in December, the governments of Kenya and Uganda sent planes to evacuate their stranded nationals. Uganda used the need to protect its citizens to partly justify its deployment of troops  to secure the capital and prop up Kiir’s government. 

Sara Basha of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it had helped repatriate more than 100 other foreigners to their home countries, including many Sudanese citizens. IOM brought the foreigners to Juba, from where the evacuees’ embassies were responsible for their onward transport.

However, she said some embassies lacked the funds to send their citizens back home. “So even if we bring them to Juba we are just moving them from one location to another and there is no solution for them,” Barra told IRIN.

Many of those in the IDP camp at UN House, the world body’s main compound in Juba, say they have no wish to be repatriated.

Eritreans

Simon Tesfazghi, a leader of the 250 Eritreans he said lived in the camp, said he had fled Eritrea in 2013 after seven years of gruelling military service. Another reason was that Eritrean authorities did not allow him to practice his Protestant faith freely, he said.

Tesfazghi said it was unthinkable for the Eritreans to go back to their country, or to return to South Sudanese towns such as Bor and Bentiu, which were destroyed in the fighting and where foreigners had been harassed and robbed by gunmen from both sides. He said his community would like to be recognized as refugees and taken to another country.

“How long will we have to sit here? We are foreigners, not citizens of this country. Who can find a solution for us?”

John Dabi, deputy commissioner for refugee affairs, said the South Sudanese government acknowledged that the Eritreans could not easily return home.

The UN's top human rights body last month launched an investigation into alleged abuses in Eritrea, including extrajudicial executions, torture and forced military conscription. The USA has long listed Eritrea as a “Country of Particular Concern” for its “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom.

Dabi said that after the crisis in South Sudan began he wrote to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, proposing that Eritreans living in the UN camps be granted “temporary protection” while a mechanism was established to examine their individual cases.


"We don't want to be here, using stinking latrines and begging for everything."
Under laws passed in 2012, South Sudan currently only recognizes refugees from particular areas of Sudan, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

But Dabi said the temporary protection plan was hastily put on ice after it triggered rumours that swept through the Eritrean and other foreign communities that they would be granted refugee status and resettled in the USA, prompting a deluge of new registrations at the camp.

“Everyone came running in and claiming the same status,” Dabi told IRIN. “If it is just a handful of people - 80 or 100 - you can deal with it, but if you are talking of several thousand it becomes difficult to manage... They all wanted to get into a third country as soon as possible.”

He said the plan to grant the Eritreans temporary protection would be revisited only once the Commission and UNHCR had established a committee to determine applicants’ eligibility for refugee status. But there were no plans to do this for Ethiopians or Somalis.

Ethiopians


One of the displaced, Farouk Kedir, said many of the 160 Ethiopians in the camp at UN House had fled to South Sudan for political reasons. He said Ethiopian authorities had left them alone while they were living unobtrusively in provincial towns, but that grouping them together in Juba had drawn unwanted attention.

“Now that we are all together here, [it is easier to] follow us more closely,” Kedir told IRIN.
He claimed that three people from the community who had ventured outside the camp had been kidnapped, and another killed by unidentified attackers.

A group of four men had come to their section of the camp a month earlier and begun taking photographs of the displaced people, Kedir said. Residents challenged them and a scuffle broke out before the men fled.

“We can’t go outside to run our businesses as we did before,” Kedir said. “And we cannot go back to Ethiopia. We would be killed or imprisoned.”

He said community leaders had reported their situation to UN officials, and asked the world body to take them to “any” safe country.

Somalis

Abdul Aziz Ismail, a Somali community leader, said there were 300 Somalis at UN House.
He said some of them had been in South Sudan for over 20 years, having fled from the long wars racking their home country.

“We were already displaced. Now we are displaced again, but nobody is taking any notice,” Ismail said in an interview in a makeshift tea-shop in the camp, flanked by dozens of his compatriots. “We don’t want to be here, using stinking latrines and begging for everything.”

He said it was dangerous for any man to return to Somalia. “If you come from the outside, people will think you are a spy. They will take you away and behead you.”

“Beggars have no choices. If we had a choice, we would have taken it. Now we do not know what we should do.”

Ismail said foreigners who left the camp tended to draw the attention of nervous South Sudanese security forces. The fact that many lacked official documents left them vulnerable to harassment, abuse and extortion, he said.

Still, he said hundreds of Somalis had left the camp as the situation in Juba had stabilized, particularly those with businesses and support networks in the capital.

Dabi argued that many more of the foreigners in the camps would be safe to do likewise.

“Nobody is targeting them. They can go back to whatever business they were doing before,” he said.

South Sudanese authorities had no plans to expel foreigners inside their borders, or to tax their business activities, he said.

In the meantime, Dabi said foreign civilians should be granted the same assistance as displaced South Sudanese. While the focus is currently on protection, he said there were discussions under way with international partners about how to help people restore their livelihoods.

Eritrea consulate receives ‘final straw’ warning to stop extorting expatriates in Canada | National Post

 |  | Last Updated: Jul 14 7:24 PM ET

More from Stewart Bell | @StewartBellNP 
The Toronto building where the Consulate General of the State of Eritrea is located. he Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group of Canada wants to see it shut down.

Darren Calabrese/National PostThe Toronto building where the Consulate General of the State of Eritrea is located. he Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group of Canada wants to see it shut down.
TORONTO — The federal government has warned Eritrea that its only diplomatic outpost in Canada will be shut unless it ceases all involvement in a discredited taxation scheme that has been linked to threats, intimidation and harassment.
In a diplomatic note obtained by the National Post, Canadian foreign affairs officials put the Eritrean regime on notice that its Toronto consulate must stop soliciting and collecting a “diaspora tax” for the tiny African dictatorship.
Should consulate staff do anything more than refer callers to an Eritrean government website, Ottawa will close the diplomatic post, said the diplomatic note delivered Thursday in a significant blow to Eritrea and its supporters.
“If the department continues to receive allegations that the consulate continues to solicit the tax, including through provision of amounts owing, requesting notices of assessment, and/or using agents or any similar activities, Canada will withdraw its recognition of the Eritrean consular post in Toronto,” the note said.
Described by a Canadian official as a “final straw,” the warning came after the National Post reported that, a year after Foreign Minister John Baird expelled the Eritrean consul-general over the issue, consulate staff continued to play a key role in collecting the 2% income tax from Eritrean expatriates.
Under the scheme, even Eritreans who had fled the repressive dictatorship were told to send their Canada Revenue Agency assessment notices to the consulate, which then calculated how much they owed. Those who decline to pay are denied basic services and face possible arrest should they return to Eritrea, while their friends and families in Eritrea are threatened and harassed, according to the RCMP.

Text of Diplomatic Note

The department acknowledges receipt of the tax form used by the government of Eritrea to collect tax from its citizens in Canada. The department also notes that it continues to receive serious allegations that the Consulate of Eritrea in Toronto is violating its commitment to respect Canada’s conditions regarding the solicitation and collection of tax. Specifically, the department has received information that the consulate continues to request notices of assessment of Canadian tax returns from Eritrean-Canadian citizens, is involved in the calculation and negotiation of the amount of money owing to the Eritrean government, and further relies on agents in the community to collect funds and transfer them to Eritrea. All of these actions are considered as solicitation and collection of tax. Canada expects that the only action on the part of the consulate related to the 2% reconstruction and rehabilitation tax is to refer any inquiries about the tax to the government of Eritrea directly or to a government of Eritrea website. If the department continues to receive allegations that the consulate continues to solicit the tax, including through provision of amounts owing, requesting notices of assessment, and/or using agents or any similar activities, Canada will withdraw its recognition of the Eritrean consular post in Toronto. The above will be discussed in detail with the next career head of the consulate in Toronto upon her arrival.
The “diaspora tax” system has been condemned by the United Nations, which has asked member countries to end the practice. The UN has imposed strict sanctions on Eritrea over its clandestine backing of armed groups in the Horn of Africa, notably Al-Shabab, which killed two Canadians in Nairobi last year.
The consulate denies soliciting the tax, claiming it only provides “information” and that those complaining want to “destroy the Eritrean community.” But in phone calls secretly recorded by Eritrean-Canadians, consulate staff admitted they were still actively involved in the taxation program.
An affidavit signed by Wegahta Berhane Tesfamariam, a landed immigrant living in Edmonton, described how the consulate informed her she owed $1,200 in back taxes and that unless she paid her passport would not be renewed, meaning she would be unable to visit her husband in the United States.
The consulate instructed her to contact an agent in Edmonton named “Domenico,” who would arrange for her to ship the money to Eritrea. “He can connect you with other people who can take the money for you,” a consulate employee named Ketem said, according to the affidavit, which was sent to foreign affairs officials.
A Canadian living in Alberta who also recorded his calls said the consulate told him his wife and child would not be allowed to leave Eritrea until he paid up. A former political prisoner who fled the regime and now lives in Vancouver was told he could not have his university transcript unless he paid $6,000 in taxes.
The diplomatic note said the department “continues to receive serious allegations that the consulate of Eritrea in Toronto is violating its commitment to respect Canada’s conditions regarding the solicitation and collection of tax.
“Canada expects that the only action on the part of the consulate related to the 2% reconstruction and rehabilitation tax is to refer any inquiries about the tax to the government of Eritrea directly or to a government of Eritrea website.”
The senior consulate officer could not be reached for comment on Monday. The consulate has been without an accredited diplomat since the former consul-general’s expulsion last May. The consulate is currently staffed by locally engaged employees.
Every month, some 3,000 Eritreans flee the repressive  country, which human rights groups have called a “giant prison.”
National Post