Sunday, October 20

44 sent home, 117 missing

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Masir Kujat

KUCHING: All 44 North Koreans detained by Sarawak Immigration Department for overstaying have been deported but the whereabouts of 117 of them who overstayed their work permits are still unknown.

As at March 31, the department’s record shows none of them leaving the state, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Masir Kujat told The Borneo Post yesterday.

“As there is no record of them leaving the state, there is possibility that they may still be around or are still with their employers.  But as their work permits have expired, we consider them illegal workers,” said Masir.

As for the 35 who possess valid documents to work in Sarawak, Masir said their documents would expire in May.

“By then, their employers will have to follow the immigration procedure of either continuing to engage them by applying work permits for them or send them back.”

He said diplomatic ties between Malaysia and North Korea had been restored to normal and the policy of engaging North Korean workers remained unchanged.

“The diplomatic ties are now intact. I don’t think the policy of engaging North Korean workers was affected by the short period of disagreement between the two countries. The companies who are engaging North Korean workers only have to apply to renew visas if the employers still want to keep them,” he said.

Masir said the state Immigration Department would continue to be on the lookout for the missing North Koreans.

“It is an ongoing effort of the Immigration Department.  We will have to round them up because they have no valid documents and are illegal workers,” said Masir.

On the question of trade sanction imposed by the United Nations (UN) on North Korea, Masir said it did not affect Malaysia.

“The diplomatic ties between Malaysia and North Korea have resumed.  Now Malaysians can travel to North Korea by applying for proper visas and they can come visit us, through application of visas,” said Masir.

The bilateral ties between Malaysia and North Korean were affected badly after disagreements over the investigation on the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Feb 13.

Sarawak was brought to the limelight because it is the only state in Malaysia that employs North Korean workers. North Korean workers have been engaged in the state, especially in coal mines and construction sector.

However, very few Sarawakians were aware of their presence as they were reclusive and kept strictly to themselves.