The Sierra Leone Police has stated that it is in the process of deporting 31 Chinese nationals.
A police spokesman said on Tuesday that the Chinese were found wanting for engaging in illegal mining activities across the country. Police said the men were arrested in July in the northern Tonkolili and eastern Kono districts.
The group detained in Tonkolili, comprised of 24 Chinese nationals that were arrested in the middle of a forest designated as a protected area.
They were said to be prospecting for gold. Officials at the time revealed that they were found with huge excavators and machines in about 10 to 15 camps.
They were also discovered in possession of military tents, among other equipment to facilitate their illegal activities. They allegedly employed under-aged children and were also suspected of sexually exploiting women and girls.
In Kono, the group of seven Chinese was also found mining gold. One of the accused is reported to have died during the course of the investigation.
Superintendent Brima Jah, Director of Crime Services at the Sierra Leone Police, said the decision to deport the Chinese was taking after investigation on their cases.
“We have decided that these kinds of people cannot remain in the country,” he was quoted saying, noting that they have already informed the Chinese embassy to put modalities in place and ensure their citizens leave the country before September 30.
China is a major trading partner and development partner of Sierra Leone. There are many Chinese companies operating in the country and, because of this, a lot of Chinese citizens have found their way to the country to undertake private investment. But some of them have been involved in illegal activities.
And there have been growing anger towards the Chinese nationals among locals who sometimes accuse the foreigners a maltreatment of locals.