North Korean labourers sent to Qatar as 'slaves' to work on construction projects

The labourers are understood to receive as little as 10 per cent of their wages

Thousands of North Korean labourers are understood to be working excessive hours for little or no pay in construction sites in Qatar, while Kim Jong-un’s regime pockets their money.

The Guardian has gathered testimonies from North Korean labourers working on construction sites for wealthy new high rise blocks in the emirate, in which people detail their understanding that they are in Qatar to “earn foreign currency for our nation” and how “people like us don’t usually get paid”.

North Korea was accused of “unspeakable atrocities” in its consistent abuse of human rights, which were detailed in a damning UN report issued in February.


The report described the existence of prison camps, systematic torture, starvation and killings under Kim Jong-un’s rule, prompting urgent calls for member states to act against the atrocities.  

Four construction sites have been identified in Qatar that will become Lusail City, reportedly worth £28 billion, and which are understood to be using North Korean labourers.

Workers are told they will receive their money when they return to North Korea, but that after a series of costs are removed from their pay packets, such as food and accommodation are accounted for, they receive as little as 10 per cent of their wages.

Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, told the paper that the descriptions of conditions, which include abuse of vulnerability, withholding of wages an excessive overtime, are “highly indicative of state-sponsored trafficking or forced labour”.

A spokesperson from Qatar’s ministry of labour and social affairs said it takes all issues around worker payment extremely seriously, stating that there are 2,800 North Korean guest workers registered in the emirate, and it has had “no recorded complaints” about their pay or treatment.

“Qatar is determined to continually improve labour conditions for all who work in the country, and will continue to work with NGOs, businesses and other governments to achieve this,” the statement said.