Eritrea has accused Canada of bullying after Ottawa expelled its envoy for demanding money from expatriates to fund its army.
Eritrea’s consul general in Toronto was ordered on Wednesday to leave the country by June 5, after he reportedly ignored a warning to stop collecting funds from Eritreans in Canada, a breach of UN sanctions against the African nation and illegal under Canadian law.
Eritrea condemned the expulsion on Thursday, rejecting the accusations and saying the services given at the consulate were “fully consistent” with diplomatic agreements and “do not violate international or Canadian laws”.
“It is the act of a bully against a small and proud nation and its people, aimed at denying the Eritrean community the services they need from their government,” said the foreign ministry statement.
“The Eritrean government is confident that the community, which has faced increasing harassment including intimidation and severe restriction on their peaceful activities, will not be bullied.”
Canada asked the consul to stop the alleged fundraising in September after it was first revealed. The consul said it would comply.
But Canadian media reported last week that Semere Ghebremariam O Micael had resumed demanding money from expatriates to fund Eritrean national defence against neighbouring Ethiopia, from which Eritrea separated in 1993.
Public broadcaster CBC quoted an Eritrean immigrant, who asked not to be named, as saying his family in Eritrea “would get in trouble if I don’t pay”.
Eritrea, which won its independence from Ethiopia after a three-decade conflict, remains in a tense border stalemate with its rival after they returned to a bloody 1998-2000 border war.
Eritrea’s economy is struggling, and the government demands its expatriates pay a two-percent income tax via its embassies.
Rights groups accuse the government of the Horn of Africa nation of a slew of abuses, including the jailing of opposition, journalists and minority religious groups.