The highest diplomatic representative of Eritrea in the Netherlands has to leave the country. Temporary case attorney Tekeste Ghebremedhin Zemuy of the embassy office in The Hague has been declared persona non grata.
Such a measure is highly exceptional.
A large parliament majority had asked the Dutch government to completely close down the Eritrean representation in The Hague. This is because the Eritrean authorities continue to force former compatriots in the Netherlands to pay a so-called diaspora tax.
The undesirability of the high diplomat is a heavy measure. Minister Halbe Zijlstra of Foreign Affairs calls it a ”strong diplomatic signal” in a letter to the House of Representatives. Eritrea does not have a real embassy in the Netherlands, but an office that is not closed. The embassy is in Brussels.
The radio program Argos recently quoted from a secretly recorded conversation with the head of the embassy office. In it, an Eritrean asylum seeker is forced to pay the diaspora tax and to express his regret for having fled from the African country. Otherwise he will not get the necessary government document.
After the broadcast, the ambassador of Eritrea was called on 28 December at Foreign Affairs. Then again the ”great worries” about the charge were transferred. The discussion showed that Eritrea is not prepared to stop these ”undesirable practices”. Then it was decided to declare the temporary agent to persona non grata.
The Eritrean ambassador was again summoned to the ministry on Tuesday 16 January to receive the decision.
There is no evidence that criminal offenses were committed at the embassy office. The government has been trying to put an end to the tax for years. Eritrean diplomats have already been summoned for this purpose. Eritrea has been imposing a tax on its citizens in the Diaspora since 1994. That is not illegal. But according to the UN, the levy often happens with intimidation and coercion.
The embassy office will remain open because otherwise the job would be damaged in such a way that ”adequate representation of interests, for example in the area of migration, human rights and consular affairs and missions, becomes virtually impossible”, according to Zijlstra. This would also be a lot of practical hindrance for the more than 20,000 people in Eritrean society in our country.
Government parties D66 and VVD are satisfied with the decision to dismiss the highest Eritrean diplomat in the Netherlands.
Member of Parliament Sjoerd Sjoerdsma of D66: ” I am pleased that Zijlstra is finally acting as a minister. With the sending away of the ambassador he gives a strong signal: the extortion practices must stop. A logical intermediate step, but if this practice does not stop, further steps must remain on the table. ”
VVD MP Malik Azmani says he is happy with the ” firm ” signal. ” A good first step, we do not tolerate the long arm of Eritrea in our country. ”