In a debate in the Dutch parliament on Wednesday 20 December, a motion has been issued by parliament members to close the Eritrean embassy. The Dutch parliament and government have debated multiple times in the previous years over intimidation, threats, 2% diaspora tax and the role of the embassy and Eritrean government in the Eritrean diaspora community in the Netherlands. The recent report on the 2% diaspora tax in Europe has further fueled the concerns, and it is now supported by recordings from the Dutch radio programme Argos that show the coercion in action.
The Dutch parliament debated with minister of Foreign Affairs, Halbe Zijlstra. In the debate, the members of parliament raised the fact that the signals of coercion and threats by the Eritrean government in the Netherlands are still ongoing, despite government measures. These measures include illegalising the 2% diaspora tax when it is accompanied by threats and coercion and investigating the extent of the Eritrean influence in the Netherlands. These measures have not lead to improvements, the Dutch parliament noted.
The parliament put forward motions to close the Eritrean embassy due to its role in the collection of the 2% diaspora tax and to investigate how this tax could be made illegal under all circumstances. The Dutch government maintains that the closing of an embassy is the toughest measure possible and that it can only be taken when sufficiently hard proof is shown. However, the government recognises that the signals so far are very strong and that the government recognises the severity of this.
Dutch investigative radio programme Argos has published a transcript of recordings preceding the debate that caused a stir among the politicians. The recording captured a conversation between an asylum seeker and the head of the Eritrean embassy. In the conversation, the asylum seeker is told that he must sign a so-called ‘apology statement’ that allows him to be prosecuted for any crime. He must also pay the 2% diaspora tax over the past 4-5 years. If he does not, he cannot obtain documents, he is told. He is also told that anyone that needs consular services must do this. The full programme will air this Saturday.
The minister of Foreign Affairs remarked that the issues raised in the programme seem very serious, and that it is possible that following the airing of the full programme, he will take steps including summoning the Eritrean ambassador to give an explanation.
More on this can be read here:
– Martin Plaut – Dutch parliament presses government to close Eritrean embassy
– Dutch news – Telegraaf: VVD en D66: sluit ambassade Eritrea