“Close the Eritrean consulate,” says Dutch-Eritrean journalist

source : www.rnw.nl (Photo: Sophie van Leeuwen)

Published on : 16 August 2012 - 1:53pm | By Sophie van Leeuwen (Photo: Sophie van Leeuwen)

Dutch Eritreans forced to pay ‘war tax’

The Eritrean Consulate in The Hague has been extorting money from Eritreans in the Netherlands for almost twenty years. A report in Dutch daily De Volkskant claims people are being forced to hand over two percent of their monthly income to support the regime of President Issayas Afewerki.

According to the Dutch newspaper, those who refuse to pay are subject to threats and intimidation and are denied consular services.  A report earlier this year from the United Nations suggested that the Eritrean regime was systematically extorting money from the global Diaspora. President Afewerki’s regime insists this ‘tax’ is needed to wage jihad or ‘holy war’ in the Horn of Africa.

“I haven’t paid tax”

Zakarias Ghebreyesus Yohannes, like Habtom Yohannes an Erithrean living in the Netherlands, says the Erithrean consulate never pestered him to pay up. “I didn’t pay the 2 percent tax myself because of my personal financial troubles,” he says.

“But I can show you on my passport that I’ve traveled to Eritrea in December and January. There wasn’t any restriction. I swear it’s the truth.  I’m a peaceful man. I haven’t had any problems.”

He refuses to pay 2 percent income tax to the Eritrean government. Dutch-Eritrean journalist Habtom Yohannes, who has been living in the Netherlands since the 1980s, is a firm opponent of the Eritrean regime of President Isaias Afewerki.

Eritreans abroad are complaining about a ‘war tax’, a 2 percent income tax they have to pay to the Eritrean government. Are you forced to pay 2 percent?
“They don’t force you directly. But if you need consular services, they ask you to pay this 2 percent monthly tax, since 1992, when the measure was issued. Everyone should pay to defend the country.”

Other Eritreans claim they don’t pay the 2 percent tax and are free to travel to their homeland. So what’s the problem really?
“I don’t know who these guys are. Many of them defend the regime, but they don’t know where the money is going to. We don’t have a functioning parliament in Eritrea, there are no elections. Our president Isaias Afewerki was president of the transitional government. He’s still in power after 21 years.”

Do you know where the money is going to? Opponents call it a ‘war tax’, but it won’t be directly transferred to the al-Shabaab bank account, will it?

“It is difficult to say where it goes. But the UN monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea issued just recently a report alleging that the war money is going to al-Shabaab in Somalia and rebel groups in southern Ethiopia. There is no peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Eritrean government wants to destabilize Ethiopia, Djibouti, the whole region!”

You are clearly not happy with this regime. Why do you speak out?
“I have been very critical towards the regime. I have been working with the Liberation Front, [where] the current ruling class [comes from], since I was 14. But after they refused to implement the constitution in 1997 and they went to war with Ethiopia, I started to criticize them openly, with my name and with my face. They know who I am.”

“Why? What they have been doing is very inhuman. Former freedom fighters who became critical journalists disappeared. Ministers, generals and ambassadors who criticized the president disappeared. Since more than eleven years, we don’t know where they are.”

You claim you’re being intimidated. What’s going on?

“I receive phone calls. I should not talk to the outside world about internal issues of the Eritrean regime. They say: We will kill you and those who talk to you. I’m not afraid.”

“It would be a good signal if the Dutch government would close the Eritrean consulate in The Hague until the Eritrean regime behaves. What they do in Eritrea is their business. But they shouldn’t implement their system in the Netherlands.”

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Posted by on Aug 16 2012 Filed under Interviews, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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