“Diaspora Tax: How Eritrea’s Oppressive Regime is Funded by Eritreans Living Abroad”

Eritrea, a small country located in the Horn of Africa, has been plagued by political instability and human rights abuses for decades. The government, led by President Isaias Afwerki since 1993, is known for its repressive policies, including indefinite conscription, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly.

One of the ways the Afwerki regime has managed to stay in power is by using funds from Eritreans living abroad. Eritrea has a policy of mandatory national service, which requires all able-bodied citizens to serve in the military or other government agencies. This service is supposed to last for 18 months, but in practice, it can go on for years, with no clear end date.

Many young Eritreans choose to flee the country rather than risk being trapped in this system. According to the United Nations, more than 500,000 Eritreans have left the country in the last two decades, making it one of the largest sources of refugees in the world. These refugees often end up in neighboring countries, such as Ethiopia or Sudan, but many also make their way to Europe or North America.

Once they are settled abroad, however, Eritreans face a new kind of pressure from the government. The Afwerki regime imposes what is known as a “diaspora tax” on Eritreans living abroad. This tax is supposed to fund development projects in Eritrea, but in practice, it is used to prop up the regime and its military apparatus.

The diaspora tax is levied on all Eritreans living outside the country, regardless of their citizenship or residence status. Those who refuse to pay can face harassment or even violence from Eritrean officials or agents of the government.

This tax is not only illegal but also unethical. It forces Eritreans living abroad to contribute to the very system that they have fled, one that systematically violates their human rights. It also puts them at risk of retaliation from the government if they refuse to pay.

Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that the diaspora tax is being used to fund violence and oppression within Eritrea. In 2020, a report by the UN Panel of Experts on Eritrea found that the government was using funds from the tax to purchase weapons and other military equipment. This equipment was then used to suppress dissent within the country, including in the Tigray region, where Eritrean soldiers have been accused of committing war crimes.

Given all of these factors, it is clear that the diaspora tax is not a legitimate source of funding for Eritrea’s development. Instead, it is a tool of oppression that serves to prolong the suffering of the Eritrean people.

It is time for the international community to take action against this illegal and unethical tax. Governments around the world should refuse to recognize the tax as legitimate and should work to prevent Eritrean officials from collecting it within their borders. They should also increase support for Eritrean refugees and work to create pathways for them to live and work in safety and dignity.

Eritrean civil society groups, including those in the diaspora, should also continue to push for an end to the diaspora tax and for accountability for the Afwerki regime’s human rights abuses. Through their advocacy and activism, they can help to bring about a brighter future for the people of Eritrea.