KUWAIT: Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khalid Al-Sabah holds a meeting next week with officials from a government body tasked with finding solutions to the dilemma of stateless residents, in order to discuss the latest updates regarding efforts to end the thorny subject, a local daily reported yesterday. According to sources quoted by Annahar daily, the new minister’s step comes after he raised the ‘bedoons’ issue during his first meeting in office with senior Interior Ministry officials “in which he announced commitment to finding solutions in accordance with the legal procedures”.
The sources who requested anonymity indicated that the Interior Ministry and the Central Apparatus for Illegal Residents are working together to naturalize 4,000 stateless residents this year in accordance with a law passed by the scrapped parliament several months ago. Kuwait’s community of stateless residents, estimated at 105,000, demands citizenship as well as civil and social rights they are deprived off given their illegal residence status. The government in the meantime argues that only 34,000 qualify for consideration while the rest are Arabs or descendent of Arab people who deliberately disposed their original passports after coming to Kuwait to seek citizenship in the oil-rich country.
The Kuwaiti government established the Central Apparatus for Illegal Residents in 2010 with a five-year ultimatum to sort out the stateless residents’ community and find those who meet conditions of naturalization, including residents whose Bedouin ancestors failed to register for citizenship following Kuwait’s independence more than 50 years ago.
The Apparatus adopted measures within a year to grant stateless residents numerous rights which include obtaining marriage, birth and death certificates, but inability to provide significant improvement in living conditions prompted several protests in the past couple of years which saw around 200 stateless men arrested for illegal gathering. Last May the Apparatus’ President Saleh Al-Fadhalah announced they were able to identify the original nationalities of 67,000 out of 93,000 ‘bedoons’ registered in its records.
The government also adopted last year a new form of security IDs given to stateless residents and used as their main form of identification. The cards contain colored tags referring to the category under which a holder is recognized in state records; including those eligible for naturalization and others the government claims to have proof that they belong to other countries. For example, a bearer of a red-tagged card is classified under ‘people with criminal restrictions’ which renders naturalization applications automatically disqualified.
The parliament passed a bill last March doubling the number of people the government can naturalize each year to a maximum of 4,000, and that after the cabinet agreed to give priority in granting citizenship to stateless residents who meet the required conditions. The term ‘bedoon’ is Arabic for without, and is often used as a loose reference to the fact that stateless residents live without nationality since birth.