Dutch government tells highest Eritrean diplomat to leave

Dutch government tells highest Eritrean diplomat to leave

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch government has told the highest representative of Eritrea in the Netherlands to leave the country, minister of Foreign Affairs Halbe Zijlstra said on Wednesday.

Tekeste Ghebremedhin Zemuy has been declared persona non grata, Zijlstra wrote in a letter to parliament, as the government saw mounting evidence of Eritrea continuing to force tax payments from people who fled the country.

A spokesman for the Eritrean Embassy declined to comment on the decision.

Dutch radio program Argos last month said Eritrean refugees were being intimidated into paying a “diaspora tax” at the embassy in The Hague, in order to get access to its services, despite earlier orders by the Dutch government to stop this practice.

“This is an exceptionally severe measure, meant as a signal to the government of Eritrea”, Zijlstra said. “We want to make clear that we don’t tolerate these unwanted practices.”

Zijlstra said he had decided not to close the entire embassy, against the will of a majority in Dutch parliament, as that would make it impossible to help Eritreans.

He called on Eritreans to report criminal offences they had experienced at the embassy.

Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Alison Williams