Eritreans’ entry to Canada questioned — Border services agency slammed
http://assenna.com/eritreans-entry-to-c ... y-slammed/
August 17, 2012August 17, 2012 assenna
By: Carol Sanders
A festival planned for this weekend in Winnipeg has some people asking how the entertainment got into Canada.
A military band and an Eritrean government minister escorting them are members of an organization banned in Canada, say human-rights watchers.
“As members of the EPLF (Eritrean People’s Liberation Front), they must have lied about their identities,” said Ghezae Hagos of the Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group of Manitoba.
Canada passed a law in 2010 making EPLF members inadmissible to Canada. The law says it is an organization “known to have engaged in acts of subversion and terrorism.”
Zemhret Yohannes, head of research and documentation for Eritrea’s ruling party, and the military Walta Band stop in Winnipeg for what’s billed as a “mini festival” Saturday after visiting Toronto and Calgary. Walta means “the shield” in Tigrinya, the Eritrean language.
A monitoring group’s report to the UN earlier this summer flagged such festivals as fundraisers organized by Eritrean government officials living in the diaspora.
The Winnipeg organizers of Saturday’s “mini festival” haven’t listed a location for it and wouldn’t respond to a request for comment.
The Canada Border Services Agency has been notified about the visitors from Eritrea, Hagos said.
In Winnipeg, a border services spokesman said he can’t confirm or comment on complaints and investigations.
“The CBSA does, however, take all complaints very seriously and will investigate them thoroughly,” spokesman Sean Best said.
Human rights lawyer David Matas wants authorities to act.
“They look to be inadmissible and they appear to be engaged in improper activities,” Matas said. “It looks like what they’re doing is raising money for the Eritrean government for military purposes.”
He first spoke out about Eritrean government activities locally two years ago when a speaker made anti-Semitic remarks at a fundraiser for the Eritrean defence fund in Winnipeg.
“Eritrea has been involved in financing groups associated with terrorism,” Matas said. Letting people enter Canada to pass the hat is galling, he added.
“It looks to me like the CBSA was asleep at the switch here,” said Matas, who often represents people trying to avoid deportation. “The law should be applied consistently.”
There’s a process for removing inadmissible foreign nationals, he said. He’d like to see it followed in the case of the Eritreans on stage at the Winnipeg festival.
In Calgary, Yohannes, the Eritrean government minister, denied any links to terrorism, urged people to defy sanctions and donate to the Eritrean defence fund, said Hagos, who listened to a recording of his speech in Tigrinya.
Most of the Eritrean people in Canada being hit up for donations arrived as refugees who fled the regime, Hagos said.
Eritrea has the highest number of political prisoners per capita, no democratic elections, no press freedom and has been compared to North Korea.
Still, Eritrean ex-pats will pay $45 to $50 to attend Saturday’s festival just to hear and dance to the music they grew up with, Hagos said.
“People are really homesick,” he said. “There’s no problem with cultural programs; they’re very important. But why do you have to do it in conjunction with the military?”
Financially supporting the regime they fled isn’t just wrong — “now you’re breaking the law.”
Matas said Canada signed on to sanctions against Eritrea for a reason, and Winnipeggers should take note.
“There may well not be one dollar in Winnipeg that’s going to come back with a terrorist act in Winnipeg,” Matas said. “We don’t just keep out terrorists who are involved in terrorism in Canada.
“We keep out terrorists who are involved in terrorism anywhere.”
Winnipeg Free Press – PRINT EDITION