From 'remittance' to 'tax': the shifting meanings and strategies of capture of the Eritrean transnational party-state African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal 6 (2) 189-207
For decades, mass out migration has remained a defining characteristic of Eritrea. The country's first major refugee crisis occurred in the early 1980s, in the midst of its liberation movement. Upon gaining resettlement in the industrialized world, Eritreans overwhelming continued their support of the liberation war, both financially and politically. Since independence, the ruling government adopted strong measures to ensure the diaspora's continued political and economic engagement. We examine the Eritrean party-state's changing relationship with members of its dispersed population focusing on the evolution of an expatriate tax (2 percent Income Tax on Eritreans Working Abroad) levied on all emigrant Eritreans. Building on work that argues for recognizing the social and political dimensions of money sent 'home', this paper makes two contributions. First, we use an historical perspective to show how contextual changes can significantly shift the meanings of remittances, in this case from a voluntary patriotic remittance sent to the liberating government, to a coerced tax. Second, we bring the remittance-tax into the literature on remittances and development, expanding the types of income transfers under consideration. Attention is drawn to the party-state's articulation of the 2 percent Tax policy as a national development imperative and the various transnational governance mechanisms employed to coerce compliance. Citizenship serves as a lens for examining the state's instrumentalization and politicization of the diaspora's engagement with the Eritrean nation.
Sam Tecle is an Assistant Professor at Ryerson University’s Department of Sociology. His work explores Black and Diaspora studies, Sociology of Education, and Urban Studies.
Other publications from this author include: