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2,571 illegal residents employed in past 3 years – No solution in sight for bedoons’ problem ahead of ultimatum

local1KUWAIT: Kuwait has employed 2,571 stateless residents at the private and public sectors in the past three years, a government official said yesterday. The step comes as part of state efforts to improve the living conditions of the country's community of stateless residents, also known as 'illegal residents' in government rhetoric or more commonly as 'bedoons;' an Arabic word that means 'without' and refers to the fact that members of this community live without citizenship since birth.

The employment process is carried out through the Central Agency for Remedying Illegal Residents' Status; a state body established in 2010 to address problems facing Bedoons, in coordination with the Civil Service Commission (CSC), Waleed Al-Asfour, Assistant Secretary at the Central Agency told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) yesterday. The number of employees makes up around two percent of the total number of stateless people in Kuwait, estimated between 115,000 and 120,000.

Ultimatum
The Central Agency was given a five-year ultimatum when it was established 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 fifty years ago. Despite government promises and MPs' efforts to end the decades-long bedoons' dilemma, Kuwait is yet to grant citizenship to thousands who the government says meet naturalization conditions which includes carrying the 1965 Census documents, having ancestors who served in the military as well as being a child of a Kuwaiti woman.

Members of Kuwait's stateless residents' community demand citizenship as well as civil and social rights they are deprived from given their illegal residence status. The government 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.

It remains unclear whether the Central Agency has prepared a final solution to the bedoons' problem to be ready by the end of the year or at any time in the future. Last month, a number of MPs strongly criticized the government during a parliament session for 'refusing' to resolve the issue. "The problem of bedoons is a snowball that is increasing by the day," MP Yousuf Al-Zalzalah said during the session, and urged the Interior Minister to at least resolve their humanitarian demands.

The plight of bedoons was highlighted when authorities identified two stateless residents to be directly involved in the June 26th Imam Al-Sadiq mosque's terrorist attack. Abdulrahman Sabah Eidan Saud, who drove the suicide bomber to the mosque, and Jarrah Nimr Mejbil Ghazi, owner of the car used to transport the bomber, reportedly admitted during investigations that they are affiliated to the Islamic State (IS) group which claimed responsibility for the attack. But lawmakers have urged authorities not to 'penalize' stateless people because some of them are suspected to have assisted in the bombing. "The majority of bedoons are honest people who have sacrificed for the country and are serving the country in many fields including as servicemen in the police and the army," MP Saleh Ashour said last week.

Frustration
The Central Agency had adopted measures within a year after its creation to grant stateless residents numerous rights such as obtaining birth, marriage and death certificates as well as driver's licenses. But all measures failed to provide significant improvement in living conditions or cut unemployment rates among bedoons, prompting several protests in recent years which saw around 200 stateless men arrested for illegal gathering. Kuwait had previously launched a campaign against bedoons to force them to prove their original identity, depriving them of many basic rights despite criticism by international human rights groups. In an attempt to force bedoons to produce their original nationality papers, Kuwait has refused to issue essential documents to most of them, including birth, marriage and death certificates.

The government and parliament had reportedly reached an agreement last year to give priority to bedoons in naturalization after the maximum number of citizenships the state can grant in a year was increased to 4,000, but no naturalization batches were announced before the end of 2014. If the government grants citizenship to 4,000 bedoons every year, it would take eight and a half years to naturalize only those that Kuwait considers eligible to receive citizenship.

No jobs
MP Adnan Abdulsamad had criticized the government during a June 16 parliament session for 'recruiting workers from outside Kuwait - leaving many bedoons without jobs.' "The plight of bedoons is increasing and they are part of the Kuwaiti social structure as there are cases when two brothers are Kuwaitis and their two other brothers are bedoons while in other cases the father is Kuwaiti while his children are not," he said, adding that the problem of bedoons is a black spot in Kuwait's white uniform. MP Abdullah Al-Tameemi said authorities deal harshly with bedoons and in an uncivilized and inhumane way. The Interior Minister denied the claims and said the government is providing them many services and is studying their situation.

According to the statistics released yesterday, the Health Ministry took the lion's share of illegal residents employed in the past three years with some 1,005 landing jobs while the Ministry of Education came in second with 471 individuals followed by the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs with 135 people. Asfour said that the main requirement for employment was that the illegal residents had papers to prove that they were included in the 1956 national census. He noted that those with diplomas and higher degrees had employment priority. Those with nursing certificates and individuals employed to perform Mosques prayer calls were excluded from the diploma requirement, said the official.

Offspring of Kuwaiti female nationals as well as children of military personnel - partaking in the 1967, 1973 wars and liberation of Kuwait - are also excluded from obtaining diplomas, Asfour added. As for the private sector, the official said that there were no specific requirements for those seeking jobs there. The Central Agency had worked with Kuwait Union of Consumer Cooperative Societies (KUCCS) to employ some 670 illegal residents at 17 Cooperative Societies according to number last obtain the end of June 2015, Asfour indicated.
By Staff Reporter

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This article was published on 11/07/2015