Ghana plans to deport illegal immigrants who were drawn to the country by its economic growth and prevailing stability.
Most of the foreigners are into retail business and illegal gold mining while others are in the oil sector.
Some citizens from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) have, however, read xenophobia in the plans.
Despite this, the Ghanaian authorities seem resolute, and have set a June 30 date to flush out the illegal immigrants engaged in the retail business.
This, they say, is line with the country’s investment regulations. The rules restrict retail businesses to Ghanaians only.
A task force to implement the directive has already been put in place by the Ministry of Trade and those to be worst hit are Nigerians and Chinese who have set up shops in Accra city centre.
On May 16, officials of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) arrested two Chinese for engaging in commercial activities.
After the arrest, the officials said: “It was in line with the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s national policy to get rid of foreigners in the country’s retail business.”
The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Law, Act 478, Clause 18, stipulates that “the sale of anything whatsoever in the market, petty trading, hawking or selling from a kiosk at any place is a wholly reserved activity for Ghanaians”.
A number of Chinese have also been busted over the past few weeks for engaging in illegal mining in some parts of the country.
Last month, the police had to step in to avoid a blood-bath when youth groups in the northern region went on the rampage to flush out Chinese they claimed were destroying the environment with their illegal mining activities.
Addressing immigration staff in Accra, Interior minister William Aboah ordered the director-general to conduct investigations into how some immigrants entered the country illegally, while others were able to be issued with work permits though they did not have any arrival stamps in their passports.
“There is a growing perception and reports that the country is being flooded by illegal immigrants,” said Aboah, adding: “The issue of their entry into the country is being questioned. Some managed to acquire work permits through the back door while others continue to stay in the country illegally.”
He said some of the illegal immigrants who were arrested were found with weapons. Investigations showed that most of them did not have the required work and residence permits while others had fake permits in their passports, he added.
“These are serious issues which undermine the security of the country,” said Aboah.
As the authorities try to tighten the laws on immigration, some of the Ecowas citizens engaged in retail trade have complained about unfair treatment.
“The Ecowas protocol is clear on citizens from the community and their rights of abode in member countries and, therefore, what the Ghanaians are doing border on xenophobia,” said Lucky Eze, a Nigerian trader.