Eritrea: Will the Dutch close the Eritrean embassy?

Dutch Protest 5

Martin Plaut

There is mounting concern in the Netherland about the behaviour of the Eritrean embassy and its staff. Last Friday’s abortive conference, held by the Eritrean regime in the Dutch town of Veldhoven, may prove to be the final straw.

The four-day conference was abandoned after a Dutch court backed the mayor of the town in closing the gathering, arguing that it was detrimental to safety and security of local residents.

Spokesmen for the majority of Dutch political parties had called for action even before the  conference opened.

News of the event, to be attended by President Isaias Afwerki’s senior adviser, Yemane Gebreab was broken last Tuesday by the Dutch website, One World.

On hearing the news of his imminent arrival Dutch MPs reacted with dismay.

“When the Turkish minister wanted to come here, public order was at stake,” said Attje Kuiken of the Dutch Labour Party. “The question is: what will the speaker (Yemane Gebreab) do at this congress? And will it be within our law?”

The Dutch cabinet also expressed its reservations about the gathering.

A statement was issued declaring that the government was “uneasy” about the conference going ahead, but could not prevent Yemane Gebreab from attending since he had an EU-wide Schengen visa.

Kubrom Dafla Hosabay, a former deputy minister of finance in Eritrea, now resident in the Netherlands, warned what would take place if the meeting took place.

He accused members of Eritrea’s ruling party of threatening anyone who refused to cooperate. “This is the message that will come from the conference,” he said. [See full statement below]

At previous European-wide conferences of the Eritrean ruling party Yemane had called for the opposition to be “destroyed.”

Fearing a repetition, members of the Eritrean community opposed to the regime protested outside the hotel in Veldhoven at which the conference was being held.

There followed a confrontation with the police and running clashes, with a number of protesters being arrested.

The mayor of Veldhoven – hearing that a further 2,500 protesters would arrive from across Europe to oppose the event, decided that it should be cancelled.

The youth wing of the ruling party (the YPFDJ) which had organised the event, challenged the ruling in court, but lost, and on Friday the four-day conference was abandoned.

Dutch politicians demand action

A number of political parties in the Netherlands had previously expressed their concern about the activities of the Eritrean government in their country and its extortion of funds from the refugee community.

They had called for action against the Embassy unless it was halted.

Last June the question was debated in Parliament.

A resolution was adopted suggesting that the Embassy should be closed if it continued to use threats and pressure to extract taxes and financial contributions from the Eritrean diaspora.

It soon became clear that the warning had not been heeded. Evidence of what was taking place was gathered by journalists Huub Jaspers and Sanne Terlingen for a radio programme – ‘The long arm of Eritrea’, produced for One World and Argos.

The journalists had gathered testimonies and documentation

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