Kuwait passes bill to naturalise 4,000 stateless people

AFP , Wednesday 20 Mar 2013

Kuwait grants citizenship to almost 4,000 bidoon, solving one of the most complicated problems for the Gulf oil-rich state

Islamist, nationalist and liberal opposition groups gather to protest the Kuwait government's amendment of the electoral law and support a boycott on the country's election on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 (Photo: AP)

Kuwait's parliament on Wednesday passed a bill to grant citizenship to up to 4,000 foreigners in 2013 in a move to resolve the problem of stateless people in the oil-rich state.

Forty-three members, including all cabinet ministers present, voted in favour of the law while only two MPs abstained without any opposition. To take effect, the law also must be signed by the emir.

Last month, parliament passed the first reading of the law which stipulated naturalising at least 4,000 stateless people, but under government pressure the bill was changed to a "maximum of 4,000 foreigners."

MPs urged the government to use the legislation to start resolving the humanitarian problems of more than 106,000 stateless people, known locally as bidoons.

"The majority of those to be granted nationality must be bidoons... We will hold the government to account if it commits any violations in this issue," Islamist MP Khaled al-Shulaimi said.

"Today, we have laid down a roadmap to resolve the crisis of bidoons... who are suffering and being deprived" of many of their rights, independent MP Khaled al-Adwah told the house after the vote.

State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah al-Sabah said the government hopes the law will be "the foundation for resolving the bidoon problem."

Stateless people were born and raised in Kuwait and claim they have the right to Kuwaiti citizenship, but the government says only 34,000 of them qualify for consideration, while the rest hold other nationalities.

The emirate alleges that bidoons or their ancestors destroyed their original passports to claim the right to citizenship in order to gain access to state-provided services and benefits.

Bidoons have been deprived of basic rights to force them to reveal their original nationalities.

Stateless people have been protesting for the past two years to demand citizenship and basic rights.

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