Over 111,000 registered bedoons living in Kuwait
Interior minister invited to meeting
KUWAIT: More than 111,000 stateless residents living in Kuwait are officially registered in state records according to a recent report quoting a letter released by the Central Apparatus for Illegal Residents. This is up from the 93,000 number that the apparatus’ President Saleh Al-Fadhalah announced last May in a press statement in which he also indicated that they were able to identify the original nationalities of 67,000.
The recent letter was attached with a document that Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khalid Al-Sabah sent to MP Adnan Abdulsamad, and contained answers to questions regarding benefits that the apparatus provides to stateless residents. It indicates that there are 111,493 registered ‘bedoons’ as of the release of the letter before Al-Jarida daily published it yesterday. “This figure is subject to change as the apparatus continues to cooperate with the Interior Ministry to update information of stateless residents”, the letter reads.
According to the letter, there are 3,195 stateless men who are married to Kuwaiti women. It also indicates that the government paid more than KD3 million between September 2003 and the end of 2012 for the treatment of stateless residents who are holders of ID cards released by the apparatus, and more than KD3.5 million for bedoons’ education in the 2012/2013 academic year. The letter also indi- cates that 22,415 birth certificates were released as of the end of September 2013, and that 2,046 driver’s licenses were issued in 2012, whereas 43,142 temporary passports (article 17) were issued between November 2010 and March 2013.
Kuwait’s community of stateless residents, estimated in most international reports between 100,000 and 120,000, demands citizenship as well as civil and social rights they are deprived of 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 oilrich country.
The Kuwaiti government established the Central Apparatus for Illegal Residents in 2010 with a fiveyear 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.
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 redtagged 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. President of the parliament’s bedoon’s committee MP Abdullah Al-Tamimi was quoted yesterday announcing that interior minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khalid AlSaleh will be invited to next week’s meeting “to answer questions over the government’s failure to naturalize at least 4,000 who meet conditions as previously announced”.
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.