In line with UN sanctions against North Korea, Qatar has not issued any visas to citizens from the country since 2015, officials have reportedly said.
The disclosure follows accusations that Qatar and other Gulf states have allowed thousands of North Koreans to work in their countries, primarily on construction sites.
It also comes amid rising international concerns about North Korea following reports of recent ballistic missile testing.
Qatar is among only 16 countries internationally that hosts North Korean workers, allowing them to earn money for their country, the Associated Press reported yesterday.
In response to questions from AP, Qatari officials confirmed that North Koreans had previously been contracted to work in the state.
However, there are now fewer than 1,000 such expats. And no visas have been issued to nationals from the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK) for two years.
“Qatar is in compliance with all UN sanctions against North Korea. There have never been workers from North Korea working on any World Cup construction sites,” AP reported the statement as adding.
None of the other Gulf countries commented on the report. But AP cited unnamed intelligence officials as saying some 6,000 North Koreans worked across the GCC.
Notably, an inflammatory opinion piece published in US publication The Hill earlier this week only highlighted Qatar’s involvement with North Korean workers.
The op-ed was written by the head of a Saudi lobbying group. It described Qatar as collaborating with Iran and North Korea to form a “triangulation of terror and mayhem.”
AP is the latest to report in recent years about GCC-based North Korean workers, who critics say are subject to forced labor.
For example, in May 2015, 90 North Korean expats were reportedly sacked and sent home by Qatar-based Construction Development Company (CDC).
They were apparently in “continuous serious violation” of labor rules that resulted in the recent death of one of the employees.
At the time, it was reported that the workers endured 12+ hour days. They also ate substandard food and were subjected to unsafe working conditions.
Three months later, VOA reported that the same company laid off its remaining 108 North Korean employees. They were apparently caught working on another company’s building site at night.
However, several North Koreans in Qatar disputed the allegations. They said the workers had either gone home on leave or were transferred to other companies.
Little take-home pay
Until now, there were no official figures for the number of North Koreans working in Qatar.
However, a 2014 Guardian report estimated at the time that Qatar was home to some 3,000 North Koreans expats.
The report said that the Pyongyang government typically takes 70 percent of the wages that workers earn abroad.
After food and accommodation fees are deducted, North Korean migrant workers are often only left with 10 percent of their salary, it added.