KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — Malaysian authorities are tracing 87 North Korean workers with expired work permits in Sarawak for eventual deportation, according to Deputy Home Minister Datuk Masir Kujat.
In a Borneo Post Online report, he said that both police and the state’s Immigration Department have made this their current priority.
“We are all out to locate them to send them back home,” Masir was quoted saying in The Borneo Post.
The crackdown will not affect North Koreans with valid social and working passes.
It was previously reported that that 176 North Koreans were employed in the construction and mining sectors in Sarawak, but only 36 possessed valid work permits.
The report said that 37 North Koreans were rounded up at Kuala Tatau for overstaying on March 7, while another 16 were detained by the authorities in Lawas on March 13. So far a total of 53 of them have been arrested by the authorities and will be deported home.
North Korean workers have been known to be working in Sarawak in coal mines under a special arrangement between the country and the state government.
The matter had escaped public attention until Malaysia and North Korea entered a diplomatic row over the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at the KLIA2 last month.
North Korea has since barred Malaysians there from leaving the country, which prompted Malaysia to respond with similar measures before moving to locate and deport North Koreans here for immigration violations.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi previously said there were a total of 315 North Koreans in Malaysia, with 191 under the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme.