Canada Expels Eritrean Diplomat for Allegedly Extorting Expatriates

The Horn of Africa nation has condemned the expulsion, calling Canada “a bully against a small and proud nation and its people.”

Posted: 05/31/2013 12:22 PM EDT

The only accredited diplomat from Eritrea has been expelled from Canada for soliciting army funds from Eritrean-Canadians.

Expatriates have been charged a 2 percent “diaspora tax” and a “national defense fee” — called a donation — of up to $500, despite UN Security Council sanctions. Canadian law also prohibits “the provision of financial assistance related to military activities.”

Consul General Semere Ghbremarian O. Micael has been ordered to leave Canada by midnight on June 5.

"It is the act of a bully against a small and proud nation and its people, aimed at denying the Eritrean community the services they need from their government," said Eritrea’s foreign ministry statement.

"The Eritrean government is confident that the community, which has faced increasing harassment including intimidation and severe restriction on their peaceful activities, will not be bullied."

The expulsion comes months after an initial warning from Foreign Affairs in September, to which the Eritrean consul said it would comply.  

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird declared the expulsion “effective immediately” in a statement given earlier this week. “Today’s actions speak for themselves,” Baird added.  

Canadian Broadcaster CBC quoted one Eritrean-Canadian who confirmed the extortion allegations: "They want 2 percent… they don't give you a reason. You have to pay the money. My family [in Eritrea] would get in trouble if I don't pay," said the man, who wished not to be named.

A report from Global News revealed that despite the consul being forced out of Canada, a host of local “representatives” in various Canadian cities would be able to continue fundraising efforts.

There are also expatriates who deny such extortion claims and insist all contributions are voluntary. “You don’t need to pay [the] two percent, if you don’t want to,” Yonas Zeru, a small business owner of Vancouver told Global News.

“If you don’t pay, nothing will happen.” You can count the people that have a problem with this, he added. Zeru claimed that the $500 donation stemmed from the Eritrean-Ethiopian border war, between 1998–2000, “because no one helped Eritrea.”

Human Rights Watch and several other rights groups have accused the government of a number of abuses, including enforcing bondage and the jailing of journalists and those opposed to President Isaias Afwerki and his policies.  

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(Photo: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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