Malta has effectively deported some 20 North Korean workers over concerns they were being subjected to unfair working conditions to earn hard currency for Pyongyang, South Korean media reported Thursday.
Malta became the first European Union country to take such a step, Yonhap News Agency said.
The construction and garment factory workers were denied visa extensions and all have returned to North Korea, the report said citing Maltese sources.
The workers reportedly worked long hours while receiving only one-third of their pay, with the remaining two-thirds being sent to the government in Pyongyang, it said.
The decision by the Malta government to deny the workers visa extensions was considered meaningful because it could pave the way for other EU members to follow suit, a diplomatic source told Yonhap.