KUWAIT: The headquarters building of the central agency for stateless residents.

KUWAIT: The government has approved a proposal submitted by the parliament’s legislation affairs committee that calls for merging the central agency for stateless residents with the Interior Ministry, well-informed sources said. Following this approval, the parliament is set to vote on the proposal by the beginning of the next parliamentary term in October, the sources added.

Further, the sources explained that Saleh Al-Fadhalah, the current acting president of the agency, might be substituted since he was initially appointed to serve for five years before his tenure was extended to two more years which expired last November. The sources added that unlike Fadhalah, his successor would likely be given the ‘secretary general’ title.

The central agency for stateless residents was established nearly a decade ago with the goal of finding a solution to the decades-old problems of Kuwait’s community of stateless residents, or ‘bedoons’, which numbers between 120,000 and as high as 150,000 according to international reports’ estimations. Bedoons demand citizenship as well as civil and social rights they are deprived from given their illegal residence status, but the government argues that only 34,000 qualify for consideration. The rest are considered Arabs or descendants of Arab people who deliberately disposed of their original passports after coming to Kuwait to seek citizenship in the oil-rich country.

The government says that the agency has helped provide many privileges to stateless residents, such as residencies valid for five years for family members in addition to free educational and health services, provided that the applicants seek to legalize their status first.

Despite a reportedly increasing number of people who legalized their status over the years, it still pales in comparison to tens of thousands who possess official 1965 census documents which the government deems key for naturalization claims. Furthermore, security concerns surrounding a large number of bedoons greatly narrows the list of those eligible for citizenship.

The work of the central agency has received a lot of criticisms over the years, including from lawmakers who believe that it has not lived up to its duties as it was supposed to provide a final solution within five years from its establishment. Furthermore, the two sides have butted heads multiple times over the years regarding the topic of setting a specific limit for how many stateless residents can be naturalized a year.

Established in 2010, the central agency was given a five-year ultimatum to sort out the bedoons’ community and find those who meet conditions of naturalization, including residents whose bedouin ancestors failed to register for citizenship following Kuwait’s independence in 1961. The agency adopted measures within a year after its creation to grant stateless residents numerous rights such as obtaining marriage, birth and death certificates as well as driving licenses. But all measures failed to provide significant improvement in living conditions or cut unemployment rates among bedoons, prompting several protests in the past few years which saw hundreds of stateless men arrested for illegal gathering.

Fake passports

Iraqi authorities have arrested two Iraqi nationals holding fake Kuwaiti passports which they used in travelling to Turkey via Iran, Iraq’s borders authority announced yesterday. The suspects, who were arrested in Istanbul and returned to Iraq, had left from Irbil to Iran using their Iraqi passports, which they then destroyed and used the fake Kuwaiti passports to go to Turkey, the authority explained in a statement.

Report denied

Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and Minister of State for Economic Affairs Hind Al-Sabeeh strongly denied reports claiming that she was referred to the permanent investigation committee at the ministers’ court on charges of failure to implement a court order concerning Sabahiya Co-operative Society’s board of directors. Stressing full adherence to the law, Sabeeh explained that court rulings operate in gradual litigations steps which she intends to follow thoroughly. Furthermore, she stressed that she would fully respect any final rulings made by the court. Sabeeh is reportedly accused of failure to implement a court order that overturned her decision to dissolve the Sabahiya Co-operative Society’s board of directors, the plaintiffs’ lawyer Mohammad Al-Ansari said.

Violating companies

Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Municipal Affairs Hosam Al-Roumi plans to form a special committee to investigate the contracts signed between Kuwait Municipality and cleaning companies, due to violations reportedly committed by some of those companies. In this regard, parliamentary sources said that, with the help of some municipality managers, some cleaning companies had violated the contracts signed with them in terms of the number of workers deployed in each area.

By A Saleh