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Kuwait warns stateless against protests

Kuwait says it will not allow stateless people to stage any more demonstrations after having promised to resolve their demands for citizenship

AFP , Tuesday 10 Jan 2012
During February and March 2011, hundreds of stateless Bidun took to the streets in Kuwait to demand government action on their claims for citizenship, as well as access to other rights. (Photo:AP)
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Kuwait’s interior ministry said in a statement that the ministry will not allow any processions, gatherings or demonstrations (by stateless), regardless of their nature or aims.

It described stateless people as illegal residents, the official term Kuwait uses to identify more than 105,000 stateless people demanding citizenship and other basic rights.

They plan to gather on Friday as they have been doing on the Muslim weekly day of prayer since December 16.

Inspired by the Arab Spring protests, stateless people demonstrated in February and March and then revived their protests last month demanding a fair solution to their plight.

At the outset, riot police used force to disperse the protesters and arrested more than 30 of them but later allowed them to demonstrate peacefully.

Interior Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Humoud Al-Sabah said in remarks published Sunday that Kuwait will start naturalising some of the stateless people, locally known as "bidoons," by the end of January or early next month.

The minister gave no details as to the number of bidoons who will receive citizenship.

But Saleh al-Fadhalah, who heads the government's central agency for illegal residents that deals with the stateless, said last month that 34,000 stateless people could qualify for citizenship.

Kuwait has long alleged that bidoons or their ancestors destroyed their original passports to claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship in order to gain access to the services and generous benefits provided to nationals.

In a bid to force the bidoons to produce original nationality papers, Kuwait has refused to issue essential documents to most of them, including birth, marriage and death certificates, Human Rights Watch said last June.

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