The UK Home Office has issued a new and ‘up-to-date’ guidelines that policy makers should adhere on handling claims made by Eritrean asylum seekers in the country.
The two crucial documents that was released last month, namely “Country Information and Guidance Eritrea: National (incl. Military) Service” and “Country Information and Guidance Eritrea: Illegal Exit” are results of the official visit made by a UK delegation on December 2014 to Eritrea.
The Home Office guidelines specifically acknowledges that the Danish Immigration Service’s report are, by far, the most “up-to-date information” about Eritrea, as opposed to the greatly recycled and decade old controversial reports made by some right groups and civic organisations based on individuals accounts whose pending asylum cases depends on the hyperbolic accounts of persecution or on states and political groups that have specific political agenda against Eritrea or the government.
During the visit, the Home office officials spend days to corroborate all the accounts stated on the Danish Report by meeting the various civic organizations, EU diplomats, UN resident representatives and government officials inside Eritrea.
Despite the endless campaign to discredit the latest Danish Report by re-writing, mis-writing, over-writing and un-writing those same decade old, politically motivated lies and allegations, the UK Home Office rather confirms first-hand that the report made by the Danish fact finding mission indeed reflects the current realities on the ground. It therefore tacitly endorsed the report almost entirely.
It is then not a surprise if the new UK policy on Eritrean asylum-seekers is based entirely on these most up-to-date information available from inside Eritrea.
The Country Guidance case MO (illegal exit—risk on return) Eritrea CG  UKUT 190 (IAC) issued on 27 May 2011 by the UK Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber is, therefore, obsolete and superseded by “The most up-to-date information available from inside Eritrea” – notably the Danish Report.
According to the new Guidelines:
* National Service no longer constitutes persecution or degrading or inhuman treatment hence people who flee to seek protection will not be granted refugee status in the UK
* National Service does not constitute forced labour
* National Service is not indefinite — it is between 18 months and four years
* Conscripts or draft evaders who exit illegally either to avoid conscription or to desert from the National Service will not be granted refugee status
* Those who left Eritrea illegally are not at risk of harm provided they have paid the 2% income tax Eritreans living abroad have to pay, and have signed a “letter of apology” at an Eritrean embassy. It is considered a reasonable requirement and a refusal or failure to comply with this will not, in itself, give rise to a well-founded fear of persecution or harm.
* Those who refuse to undertake or abscond from military/national service are not viewed as traitors or political opponents and as a result it is unlikely that such persons would be detained upon return
* The most likely outcome for evasion or desertion is the requirement to return to military/national service
* Only those who have been politically active in their opposition to the Eritrean government and are readily identifiable (high profile cases) are likely to be at risk
* Although use of the money raised through the Diaspora tax is subject to United Nations Security Resolutions, 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. 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.
* Consequently, the guidance outlined in MO (Upper Tribunal) 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.
* 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.
For the record, a Norwegian government delegation who made similar visits last year in December have reached into a similar conclusion. UN agencies operating inside Eritrea have also similar views.