Authorities issue ultimatum to 117 N. Koreans hiding in Sarawak to surrender

ADIB POVERA

KUCHING: The Immigration Department is coming down hard on the employers of 117 North Koreans who were nabbed here with expired working permits, but who have since gone “missing” in Sarawak.

Immigration Director-General Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali has given the companies one week, beginning today, to surrender the foreign workers under the 3-plus-1 programme.

Mustafar said the programme will help resolve the problem of the 117 North Koreans who had been working illegally in Sarawak’s mining industry.

“This is an opportunity for the employers and the North Korean workers to surrender, (as) the compound issued under this programme is lower.

"(But) we will not hesitate to enforce strict punishment against companies which ignore (our ultimatum)," he told reporters after the department's Excellence Services Award for the Sarawak Zone here today.

The ceremony was officiated by Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Masir Kujat.

Mustafar said companies in the state which fail to surrender and register their illegal North Korean workers by the stated deadline will be blacklisted by the department.

Meanwhile, Masir said the department is in the midst of tracing the missing North Koreans.

"We are aware of their whereabouts, and we are now giving them a chance to surrender under this programme," he said.

Masir said most of the North Koreans had been working in the coal mining and heavy construction industries in Mukah and Bintulu.

He also said 55 North Koreans with expired working permits were deported last month. In total, only 35 North Koreans with valid working permits are currently in Sarawak.