Postmedia News files
The Immigration & Refugee Board rejected Hagos Habteab Kflesus' refugee claim because he had been a member of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front.
Nov 21, 2011 – 7:53 PM ET | Last Updated: Nov 22, 2011 10:29 AM ET
An Eritrean posted to his country’s diplomatic mission in Canada has defected, saying he could no longer support his government after its crackdown on political dissent and failure to hold elections.
Hagos Habteab Kflesus abandoned his post at the Eritrean embassy and claimed refugee status in 2007, but the matter has only come to light now the Federal Court of Canada has released its decision on the case.
Posted to Canada by his government in 2006, Mr. Hagos was in charge of “administering membership drives for the Eritrean community,” the court ruling says.
Since he defected, he said his daughter, brother and parents had been imprisoned by Eritrean authorities.
The Immigration & Refugee Board rejected his refugee claim because he had been a member of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), a rebel group it said had committed terrorism and crimes against humanity.
Justice Anne Mactavish of the Federal Court agreed the EPLF had committed atrocities, but said it was not reasonable to conclude Mr. Hagos was complicit in them. She sent his case back to immigration authorities for review.
Mr. Hagos ran the EPLF office in Sudan before returning to Eritrea to work for the People’s Front for Democracy & Justice (PFDJ) party, which runs the African country of five million, one of the least developed in the world.
But he said he began to have “serious misgivings” about the party.
“His concerns started when the PFDJ failed to hold promised elections and instead became focused on securing its own hegemony,” Justice Mactavish wrote in her Oct. 24 ruling.
“Mr. Hagos says that his concerns crystallized in 2001 with the arrest of dissenters within the government.”
Eritrea is under mounting international pressure over its brutal suppression of political opponents and journalists, support for the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab and a controversial taxation scheme that taps Eritreans living abroad for money.
The National Post recently revealed Eritrean-Canadians were being pressured into giving 2% of their wages to the Eritrean consulate in Toronto, a system they referred to as a form of extortion. The United Nations is considering outlawing the “diaspora tax.”