KUCHING • All North Korean workers in Sarawak state with expired work permits have been deported to their home country.
Deputy Home Minister Masir Kujat said the foreigners, who are mostly specialised workers, had been rounded up by the state Immigration Department last month.
"The North Koreans were found to have worked in the country without valid permits. All of them have been deported to their country of origin," Mr Masir told reporters yesterday.
It is understood that the workers were deported separately in groups, with the last group leaving the state via Bintulu airport for the Kuala Lumpur International Airport last Friday. From there, they took another flight to Beijing, China, before returning to their home country.
He added that there would not be any changes in the existing entry procedures for North Korean workers, and that recruitment will continue to be based on the demand for specialised workers in the construction and coal mining sectors. It is learnt that there are currently more than 70 North Koreans with work permits in Sarawak.
Last month, Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg said that 140 out of 176 North Korean workers in Sarawak had stayed on in the state after their work permits expired.
The authorities had not deported them earlier pending the resolution of the diplomatic spat between Malaysia and North Korea, in which North Koreans were barred from leaving Malaysia in response to North Korea's travel ban on Malaysians in North Korea beginning March 7. The respective travel bans were recently lifted, allowing nine Malaysians stranded in Pyongyang to return to Kuala Lumpur last Friday.
Prime Minister Najib Razak said last Friday that Malaysia would not sever its diplomatic relations with North Korea now that the "hostage crisis issue" had ended.
BERNAMA, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK