UN condemns ‘diaspora tax,’ tells Eritrea to stop collecting

Stewart Bell, National Post · Dec. 7, 2011: The United Nations Security Council has condemned Eritrea for using a controversial “diaspora tax,” collected in Canada and other countries, to arm rebel groups in violation of international sanctions.

In a resolution that could foreshadow the end of the African government’s taxation scheme in Canada, the Security Council told Eritrea to stop extorting money from expatriate Eritreans and channeling it to armed opposition groups.

Eritrea called the resolution an injustice and blamed the United States, but the Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group of Manitoba welcomed it, saying it would embolden the Canadian government to ban the diaspora tax.

The National Post revealed last month the Eritrean consulate in Toronto was collecting a 2% income tax from members of the Eritrean diaspora living in Canada – a levy some complained they had paid unwillingly and called extortion.

The issue is significant for Canada because Eritrea has been supplying armed groups such as the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab in Somalia, which has been recruiting Canadian youths and recently called for terrorist attacks in Canada.

In the resolution, passed on Monday, the Security Council said it was concerned “Eritrea has continued to provide political, financial, training and logistical support to armed opposition groups, including al-Shabab.” It called on UN members to “undertake appropriate measures” to hold accountable those who collect the diaspora tax by means of extortion, threats of violence, and fraud. It also urged countries to ensure their mining companies exercised due diligence so that mineral revenues are not used to finance armed groups.

Vancouver-based Nevsun, which operates a gold mine in Eritrea, said Tuesday the sanctions would have no impact on its operations.

sbell@nationalpost.com