Monday, 23 June 2014

ERITREA:  A  nation  ruled  by  an  extortionist

This small nation is bordered by Sudan to the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the east. The northeastern and eastern parts of Eritrea have an extensive coastline that runs along the Red Sea, across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It is shaped like a battle axe. It is about the size of Cuba. Eritrea is a multi-ethnic country, with nine recognized ethnic groups and comprises of six million citizens. The average annual income of those that have jobs is only $546 so to say that the people of Eritrea are poor is an understatement.

Eritrea is a one-party state in which national legislative elections have been repeatedly postponed, and its human rights are considered poor. Since Eritrea's conflict with Ethiopia in 1998–2001, Eritrea's human rights record has worsened.  

This small country is ruled by a dictator whose name is Isaias Afwerki (age 58) and has been the president of Eritrea since 1991. In September 2001 the government closed down all of the nation's privately owned print media, and outspoken critics of the government have been arrested and held without trial. 

In 2004 the U.S. State Department declared Eritrea as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its record of religious persecution. Freedom of speech, press,  assembly and  association  are limited. Those that practice unregistered religions, try to flee the nation, or escape military duty are arrested and put into prison. Domestic and international human rights organizations are not allowed to function in Eritrea. Freedom of worship is one of the top reasons why thousands of Eritreans flee the country. There are thousands of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia and the Sudan seeking asylum in Europe or other countries of the West.

Now the greedy hands of its president are reaching into other countries like Canada. His government uses a money-making scheme that is called a dubious “diaspora (migration) tax. What it does is demand that those in Eritrea who have moved to Canada and other countries are expected to pay Eritrean taxes with the money being sent to Eritrea. Even those former Eritrean citizens who are now Canadian citizens are expected to pay 2% of their earnings and send it back to their former homeland as a tax. The money is then placed in the government coffers and used to bolster the government coffers so that the leaders in that country can live in a style fit for the very wealthy.

Former citizens of Eritrea who moved to Canada and were finally legitimate residents could tell the government of Eritea to bugger off but most of them have relatives in their former homeland.  One man was told that his wife who was still in Eritrea would not get a passport to leave unless he paid the tax and another man was told that he couldn’t get his university transcript sent to him if he didn’t pay the tax.

When the Canadian government learned of this extortion, they acted quickly. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced that his department had advised the Eritrean consul in Toronto in September that soliciting and collecting those taxes was incompatible with consular duties, and his accreditation would not be renewed if he and his consulate didn't stop. The consulate later indicated in writing that it would comply. However, it didn’t stop demanding the tax from former citizens of Eritea.

An Eritrean in Toronto who did not want to be identified told CBC Radio that the practice hasn't stopped and that if he doesn't pay, his family in Eritrea "would get in trouble." Another Eritrean, Teklezghi Yohannes Gabir, provided an audio to recording to CBC Radio from a meeting he attended in Winnipeg on April 21, with a voice he identified as that of Micael sounding as if he was again soliciting money.

Canada had enough. The head of the Eritrean Consulate in Toronto was ordered to leave Canada in the wake of reports that Semere Ghebremariam Micael has been involved in soliciting diaspora tax from Eritreans in Canada. In other words, this Eritrean thug was booted out of Canada.

Eritrea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded with this rather idiotic statement with respect to Canada’s decision to boot out that Eritrean thug,

“It is the act of a bully against a small and proud nation and its people and is aimed at denying the Eritrean community the services that they need from their government.”

The Eritrea government even had the audacity to say that its consulate general's activities were "fully consistent with the Vienna conventions on consular relations and as such, its consulate in Toronto didn’t violate international or Canadian laws.”

Yeah. And pigs fly. It is against the law in Canada to extort money from anyone.  Call it tax or a gift; you can’t demand something from anyone if they don’t legitimately have to turn it over to you.

The Eritrean regime relies on diaspora cash for hard currency. But according to the UN, it also uses its money to support armed rebels opposing Ethiopia, and others with ties to the notorious al-Shabaab movement in Somalia. Because of Eritrea's destabilizing role in the troubled Horn of Africa, the UN imposed sanctions on the country in 2009, hoping to choke off its access to arms and money.

The money isn’t transferred from a Canadian bank account to a government bank account in Eritrea. It has to be brought over personally by the persons who are paying that ‘tax’.

Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to Baird, further explained the decision to expel Micael when he spoke to reporters, “We have been very much concerned with the actions of the Eritrean consul general here in Canada. We had asked him at the early stages not to do this, it is contrary to our laws, but our information is that they continued doing it.  We finally had to take action. We cannot allow our territory to be used for fundraising for other countries.”

The dictatorship in Eritrea imposes what the UN has condemned as a worldwide "diaspora tax" on its nationals, valued at two per cent of their income. It often adds a second tax of up to $500, described on the Eritrean government clearance form as a "donation to national defence against Ethiopian invasion.

The people of that unfortunate nation don’t need their armed forces increased.  The money would be better spent helping that nation’s people to survive. Well that isn’t going to happen.

Those unfortunate former Eritreans who innocently are forced to pay this so-called tax are actually violating UN sanctions and may also be breaking Canadian law.

The Eritrean government was told by the Canadian government that the Eritrean government would be welcome to propose another candidate to represent it in Canada, but that person must be prepared to play by the rules.

So, will another Eritrean thug to be the new head of their consulate in Toronto be any different?  Is the pope a protestant? The answer to those two questions are the same.

The Eritrean Consulate in Toronto is still contacting Eritrean refugees and demanding that they continue to pay the 2% tax and bring it to Eritrea.  And they are threatening these unfortunate people of dire consequences to their family members who are still in Eritrea if they don’t do this. One woman was told that the tax was an obligation like Canadian income taxes and that even her loan from the bank was taxable to the Eritrean government.

You don’t cure a disease by pampering it. As I see it, the government of Canada should turf everyone one of the Eritrean members of that consulate out of Canada and close that Eritrean consulate down permanently.  

Obviously the Eritrean ambassador in Ottawa has no control over his thugs in Toronto so he too should be booted out of Canada. 

I see a problem for the Eritreans who still live in Eritrea who have family in Canada. If they want to come to Canada, they will be charged exorbitant fees for their passports and will have to ask their families in Canada to send the money to the government of Eritrea which will be applied to the coffers of their armed forces. 

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