Malaysia will deport 50 North Koreans whose work permits have expired, despite both countries banning the other's citizens from leaving their territories in a row over the alleged Feb 13 assassination of Mr Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
"The expiry has caused them to be charged, and the deportation is according to procedure. They are now detained. After documentation for deportation is completed, we will evict them," Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters yesterday.
The workers are among the 140 North Koreans in Sarawak said to be without valid work permits, a revelation which surfaced in the aftermath of Mr Kim's death. Two women - from Indonesia and Vietnam - have been charged with murdering Mr Kim with poison.
Another seven North Koreans wanted by the Malaysian police remain at large. Police say four of them fled Malaysia on the day of the attack, while the other three are hiding in the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
Pyongyang claims Malaysia is conspiring with its "enemies" to "tarnish the image" of North Korea. The dispute has led to both governments expelling each other's ambassador and imposing travel bans.
Malaysia says negotiations are ongoing to lift the travel restriction on its nine nationals in Pyongyang.