North Koreans working in Qatar as ‘state-sponsored slaves’

Workers from North Korea who are employed on Qatar’s construction are receiving only 10% of their salary, according to a report in the UK’s Guardian newspaper. Defectors have claimed that the remainder of their money is remitted to the government of North Korea. 

North Korean migrants in Qatar are employed on the understanding that they will collect their earnings after they return home, but the paper claims that some will receive only 10% of money they are entitled to, and others will not be paid at all.  

Employees of a state-run North Korean recruitment agency told a reporter from The Guardian that they did not know for sure how the remuneration system worked. One seemed unsure who would receive the money: him, his family or the government. 

Many of the workers are building the luxury $45bn Lusail City development (pictured) where the 2022 World Cup final will be held. There is no indication that the workers are involved in World Cup construction. 

Aidan McQuade, the director of Anti-Slavery International, said the descriptions of the conditions and nature of the scheme was "highly indicative of state-sponsored trafficking or forced labour". 

A spokesperson from Qatar’s ministry of labour and social affairs said 2,800 North Korean workers were registered in the emirate. 

He said: "The recently introduced Wage Protection System has been designed to ensure workers are paid their full salaries by bank transfer within seven days. The Ministry of Labour has also set up a system to file electronic complaints and ensured this is accessible to guest workers by placing terminals near guest worker accommodation. 

"There are currently 2,800 North Korean guest workers registered in Qatar and we have no recorded complaints about their payment or treatment. Qatar is determined continually to improve labour conditions for all who work in the country, and will continue to work with NGOs, businesses and other governments to achieve this"

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