Accra, March 29 (IANS) Ghanian authorities have arrested 120 Chinese for possessing fake entry permits and engaging in illegal mining and are deporting them.
The Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) will also launch an internal inquiry into allegations that some of its officers have colluded with the Chinese to grant them work permits, the agency's public affairs officer, Francis Palm-Deti, told reporters here.
Illegal mining in Ghana has over the past few months become a major problem as community elders in areas where the Chinese are operating have accused them of destroying the environment.
In the Amansie district of the Ashanti region, some 220 km from Accra, several Chinese have invaded the region and begun illegal mining. Some of the Chinese have also used arms to prevent the security services from arresting them. Police officers told IANS that it has become a major problem to deal with the illegal activities because the Chinese are fully armed and behave like they were above the country's laws.
Nana Kwame Bonsu, a farmer whose crops have been destroyed by one of the Chinese operations said: "It just happened by one night. A group of Chinese and some Ghanaians took over my farm and started mining on the land. When l tried to question their presence on my farm, the leader, who was Chinese, waved me off with a gun. The police have tried unsuccessfully to send them away. It is like no one can control their activities."
In other areas across the country, there are accusations that the illegal activities have destroyed waterbodies because the chemicals used in mining are subsequently dumped into nearby rivers. Consequently, many communities now do not have any source of drinking water.
Some environment analysts have accused the GIS of not prosecuting the arrested Chinese but chosing to deport them because of pressure from Beijing. Palm-Deti dismissed this, saying: "There has not been any pressure from anyone. It is the legal officers who have decided on this as one of the choices open to the GIS under the law."
He also said the GIS is also not singling out the Chinese in the country. "We have over 3,000 Chinese law-abiding citizens in the country who are engaged in various professions and no one is worried about them," Palm-Deti said, adding that the GIS, in the past few weeks, has deported 27 Chinese for not possessing residence permits.
In spite of this, some people think the GIS has treated the Chinese with kid gloves.
"The government must be forthright and put our national interest on the table in dealing with the illegal activities of the Chinese," said Emmanuel Bombande, executive director of the West Africa Network of Peacebuilding (WANEP).
"We must demand respect friends have for one another," Bombade said, adding: "Chinese who enter the country must respect Ghanaian laws."
This is against the background that many of them are known to have entered the country illegally and thereafter show no respect to the country's laws by engaging in nefarious activities.
Speaking about the modus operandi of the Chinese, Bombade said: "When they arrive in the country, they just move to towns that are miles away from the capital. We must, therefore, start questioning how they get to know the names of these towns and who leads them there."
There are also accustions that some Ghanaians are assisting the Chinese to thwart the efforts of the GIS against the influx of foreign illegal miners across the country.
"We have seen letters issued by Ghanaians offering jobs to Chinese to work on their fishing vessels in the country. These people have offices to show that they have fishing vessels and based on this, one cannot refuse to grant a visa," an immigration officer told the IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"When these people arrive, they cannot speak any English. From every indication, they do not even know the contents of the letters they are carrying. Ghanaians are waiting to receive them at the airport as their employers and whisk them away," the officer added.
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)