Members of the Eritrean community living in Britain have filed a criminal complaint against the Eritrean Ambassador. The complaint provided clear evidence that the London embassy is continuing to illegally extract a 2% tax from the Eritrean diaspora living in the UK.

This has been outlawed by the United Nations Security Council and the Eritrean embassy has been told to cease collecting it – on at least two occasions. Despite this the tax collection continues and the British government’s instructions are being flouted.

As the receipt below makes clear: “Anyone not in possession of this document cannot get any services in Eritrea.” The receipt also indicates that some of the taxes are for the Eritrean military.

Martin

Timeline

On 5 December 2011 the UN Security Council passed resolution 2023. This forbade the continued collection of the “diaspora tax”, a 2 per cent income tax levied on Eritrean nationals living abroad. The resolution required Eritrea to cease using threats of violence, fraud and other illicit means to force its nationals and individuals of Eritrean descent to pay taxes to the Eritrean government. The British government supported the resolution.

The UK assured the UN that it had taken steps in 2011 to ensure that the diaspora tax was not being collected in the UK. This is indicated in the following extract from a report by the UN Monitoring Group, on the implementation of resolutions relating to Eritrea and Somalia.

“On 20 May 2011, the Government of the United Kingdom notified the Eritrean authorities that, since aspects of the collection of the two per cent tax may be unlawful and in breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, until it was demonstrated otherwise, the Eritrean embassy should suspend, immediately and in full, all activities relating to the collection of the tax.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that it reminded the Eritrean ambassador on December 2012 that the diaspora tax was illegal. This was made clear by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister in the House of Lords, Baroness Warsi.

Despite these assurances and repeated warnings, it is clear that the British government’s policy is being continually flouted by the Eritrean embassy in London. Evidence of this was provided to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office by members of the Eritrean UK community in a document entitled: “Fresh evidence that British Eritreans face illegal tax extortion” dated 11 February 2014.

UK policy has been underlined in response to concerns raised repeatedly in Parliament. In a response to a question by Baroness Hayter on 24 February 2014, Baroness Warsi gave this reply:

“The UK supports United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2023, which condemned Eritrea’s use of the Diaspora tax and called on Eritrea to cease using illicit means to collect the tax. The UK has made clear that the use of coercion or other illicit means to collect the tax in the UK must cease. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) officials last raised this on 25 October 2013 in a meeting with the Eritrean Ambassador.

On 8 November 2013, officials from the FCO, the National Crime Agency and West Yorkshire Police met members of the Eritrean Diaspora to discuss the Diaspora tax. At this meeting, Eritreans were urged to report any use of coercion or other illicit means to collect the tax to the police. We will continue to engage with the Diaspora on this issue.”

The Eritrean UK community has now responded to this instruction. On 3 March 2015 they went to the West End police station and provided written evidence that the 2 per cent tax continues to be illicitly collected by the Eritrean Embassy in London. As the receipt they provided stated explicitly: “Anyone not in possession of this document cannot get any services in Eritrea.” Some of the funds were for military use.

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