Sunday, September 23, 2012

Local Eritreans applaud feds' move - Winnipeg Free Press


Ghezae Hagos: precedent for other countries.
Ghezae Hagos: precedent for other countries.
MANITOBA Eritreans are pleased after the Canadian government threatened to turf their home country's consul unless it stopped shaking down its former citizens for money.
The federal government told the Eritrean government that unless it stopped collecting a two per cent income tax from Eritreans living in Canada it would expel Semere Ghebremariam and close the country's consulate in Toronto.
"Canada made history," said a jubilant Ghezae Hagos on Friday.
"We have been working on this for many years now. This will set a precedent for other countries."
But Hagos believes the Canadian government still needs to close down the Eritrean consulate to stop it from coming up with another way of collecting the money. The tax has been a prerequisite for receiving any service from the Eritrean government, including a visitor visa to return to the country to visit family.
But the United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution prohibiting anyone from giving money to Eritrea for military activities. Canada adopted the resolution in 2010.
Last year, Ronald K. McMullen, a former U.S. ambassador to Eritrea, said the money collected by Eritrean embassies and community centres represented 11 per cent of Eritrea's gross domestic product.
Another Winnipeg Eritrean, Bereket Mebrahtu, said the tax collection was always "a violation of Canadian law.
"Nobody is allowed to have an extortion tax," Mebrahtu said. "The only solution is to close the consulate for good... This is an interim step."
Tom Denton, executive director of the Hospitality House Refugee Ministry, called the federal government's move "an amazing development.
"Word about this will spread like wildfire through the community, but will this stop it? Only time will tell."
Human rights lawyer David Matas said he fears the issue isn't over.
Matas said the Eritrean government appears to be saying the tax law is still in effect even though it won't ask Eritreans in Canada to pay the tax.
"They are taking the position it is a formality and not a substantive change," the lawyer said.
"The position is it is still active, but they won't enforce it. So the problem is not solved."
Matas said the only solution is for the Canadian government to press the matter directly with the Eritrean government.
Lambros Kyriakakos, president of the Eritrean Community in Winnipeg Inc., could not be reached for comment.
But the organization has said in the past the tax allegations are "absurd," while Kyriakakos has said in a past statement that the United Nations sanctions against Eritrea are "unjust and unfair."
The organization staged a protest in front of the Free Press building last year in response to stories detailing complaints against Eritrean government activities.
kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2012 A14

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Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change &  Liberation  in Europe, Africa and Americas. He has obtained  Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva.   A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies.  He wrote on the  problematic of  the Horn of  Africa extensively. He Speaks Amharic, Tigergna, Hebrew, English, French. He has a good comprehension of Arabic, Spanish and Italian.