According to a press release from earlier this month, Eritreans in the United Kingdom have filed a criminal complaint with police against Asmara’s ambassador in London over the ongoing efforts to force them to pay the diaspora tax:
Members of the Eritrean community in the UK have laid criminal charges against the Eritrean Ambassador to London. This is in line with the written instructions given by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office [see below]. These required members of the Eritrean community to “report any use of coercion of other illicit means to collect the tax to the police.”
Acting on this advice, members of the Eritrean community went to the West End central police station last night and filed a criminal complaint. This illegal tax collection is a clear violation of the assurance given by the Ambassador to the Foreign Office on 25th October 2013 that the tax collection had ended.
The UK supported to a resolution in the UN Security Council in 2011, which outlawed the tax collection. Despite this the illicit collection has continued and this incident is no isolated case. In February 2014 we provided the government with secretly filmed video evidence of the tax being extracted in the London embassy.
This follows similar action three years ago by Eritreans in Stockholm, which led to suggestions in the Riksdag to pass laws banning the collection of the diaspora tax in Sweden. Two years ago, Ottawa also expelled the Eritrean Consul-General in Toronto for similar reasons.
However, in a newly-released document on the handling of asylum applications by Eritrean illegal emigrants, the Home Office did its best to downplay the persecution, following the example of the U.S. State Department before them:
1.3.6 Although use of the money raised through the Diaspora tax is subject to United Nations Security Resolutions (see UNSCRs in the country information section), for states to levy a tax on its citizens overseas is not in itself persecutory, providing it is not at a punitive level or levied in a discriminatory way.
1.3.7 Therefore, provided the request is made without threats of violence, fraud and other illicit means, payment of the levy is not considered to be persecutory.
1.3.8 Consequently, the guidance outlined in MO above should no longer be followed and failure of a person to comply with a reasonable request to pay Diaspora tax would not, in itself, give rise to a well-founded fear of persecution or serious harm.
1.3.9 Those who are unable or unwilling to pay the tax would not be issued with a travel document. However, this would not place them at risk of mistreatment or harm that amounts to persecution.
Update, 26 March: The Home Office, in claiming that Eritreans no longer faced persecution, relied heavily on the Danish Immigration Service’ 2014 Fact-Finding Mission Report:
The Danish FFM Report also indicates that a person is able to return to Eritrea legally provided they pay the Diaspora tax and sign a “letter of apology” at an Eritrean embassy. This includes those who evaded or deserted National Service. Once this has been done, a passport application can be made (see Penalties for Leaving Illegally and Treatment on Return and Diaspora Tax in the country information section).
However, two Danish officials who participated in that fact-finding mission disagreed so strongly with the contents of the report that they resigned in protest, according to a report last week by Caperi:
The report triggered an internal rift within Denmark’s Immigration Service, because the two key officials disagreed with the head of the fact finding mission, Jakob Dam Glynstrup over the report’s findings and conclusion.
According to Danish daily newspaper Berlingske, senior consultant Jens Weise Olsen and special consultant Jan Olsen have been released from their jobs, in what is formally being called a voluntary resignation.
They are resigning from the Danish Immigration Service after a long negotiation between the service and the trade union Dansk Magisterforening, which is representing the officials.