Sierra Leone will deport illegal foreign workers if employers do not comply with labour regulations and promote the hiring of locals, said the government.
The resource-rich but impoverished West African nation is still recovering from a civil war and is aiming to attract investors, yet some Sierra Leoneans object to the widespread use of foreign labour.
Labour Minister Hindolo Trye said the country would begin a “crackdown” on illegal foreign workers with effect from Monday, following the completion of the registration of all foreign businesses in the country, Reuters reports.
The minister said the measure was aimed at reducing unemployment. Foreign firms had sought work permits for jobs such as store keepers, security guards and cooks, labour that Sierra Leone could provide, Trye told Reuters.
“We do not want foreigners to have these types of jobs since a lot of young Sierra Leoneans can do such jobs.”
A ministry official said there were about 12,000 foreign workers in the country, mostly Westerners, Chinese, Indians and Lebanese, working in the mining and agricultural sectors.
Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest nations, despite increasing interest from investors in its natural resources, which include diamonds, iron ore and bauxite.
Mining firms including African Minerals, Cluff Gold, and London Mining, have operations in the country, but it was not clear whether they would be affected.
Few of Sierra Leone’s 6.2 million people are in full-time formal employment. Gross national income per capita stands at just $340 a year and the national budget is a mere $500 million.