1. Eritrea and Netherlands in 'diaspora tax' spat

    Tesfalem Araia

    BBC Tigrinya

    A composite image of Yemane Gebremeskel and Stef Blok
    Image caption: Yemane Gebremeskel called Stef Blok's intervention "unacceptable"

    An employee at Eritrea's consulate in The Hague has been banned from the site following allegations that money was being "forcibly" collected there from Eritreans.

    Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok summoned Eritrea's roving ambassador in Brussels, to convey his demands for the practice to stop, according to local reports.

    In January 2018, the Eritrean Consul General in the Netherlands was declared persona non grata for charging Eritreans there a 2% "diaspora tax" from their income.

    Some Eritreans who need services from embassies are still forced to pay the levy which was introduced soon after the country gained independence in 1991.

    Eritrea's information minister has rejected the latest allegations and accused the Dutch of "harassing" the consulate, and insists no "illicit" funds were levied.

    In a tweet on Tuesday, Yemane Gebermeskel called it "unacceptable behaviour” that was “pandering to narrow interest groups”.

    He added that the non-resident Dutch ambassador would be summoned, and promised "further appropriate and reciprocal action" would be announced "in due time".

    It is not yet clear what kind of action the Eritrean government can take as the Netherlands does not have an embassy in Asmara.

    Sources say the person acting as head of the consulate does not have any diplomatic status in the country.

    The Eritrean government has been encouraging those living in the diaspora to contribute to a national fund to combat Covid-19. Some have criticised the government for not being transparent in the way it manages the funds.

  2. Latest as Europe battles Covid surge

    Rotterdam hospital, 15 October 2020
    Image caption: A Rotterdam hospital, where intensive care beds are filling up rapidly

    Partial lockdowns are continuing to spread across Europe as governments battle to curb virus infections.

    • The Netherlands has closed bars and restaurants as cases there surge. Hospitals in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague are under pressure from new Covid patients. Hospitals in western Germany have readied spare beds to take Dutch patients if necessary, as happened early on in the crisis
    • New infections are also rising rapidly in Germany: the latest official daily figure is 7,334 cases, up from 6,638 on Thursday. Germany has declared many neighbouring countries and regions to be "high risk", including the whole of France and the Netherlands, and parts of Italy and Switzerland. Germans returning from there will have to quarantine
    • Ireland now has a four-week national restriction on household visits, except for attending to medical and care needs. Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said Covid-19 in Ireland was "not in control" – that is, the current track-and-trace system could not keep up with it
    • Austria has imposed a quarantine on Kuchl, a town of 6,600 inhabitants in the Salzburg region, because of a Covid cluster there. It is the first such measure in Austria for months
    • France faces one last evening before a night curfew takes effect in Paris and eight other cities. The number of new cases in 24 hours reached 30,621 on Thursday – a new record.
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