Ghanem: National identity, rights won’t be undermined – Three bodies working on ‘roadmap’
KUWAIT: In a surprising announcement, National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem said yesterday that under directions from HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, a comprehensive and just solution will be struck this summer to end the decades-old problem of thousands of stateless people or bedoons in a way that wouldn’t “inhibit their national identity rights”.
Insisting that the solution will not undermine Kuwait’s national identity and will not be at the cost of Kuwaiti citizenship, Ghanem told reporters that the Assembly will be called to approve legislation either early next term starting in October or could be invited to an emergency session during the summer recess.
Ghanem declined to provide details about the solution, but said it was initiated with “clear directives by the Amir to resolve this issue” and that it will be “comprehensive, just and durable”. The speaker reiterated that political consultations involving members of parliament have been held for some time about this issue and talks are still ongoing.
Kuwait has recently come under criticism from international rights groups over what they call as “mistreatment” of bedoons after a young stateless man committed suicide two weeks ago after claiming that the central bedoons’ agency refused to renew his security ID, and as a result, he lost his job. Bedoons or their forefathers have been living in the country for decades and have in recent years lost many of their basic rights in a government clampdown.
The government says that as many as 34,000 of the estimated 120,000 bedoons qualify for consideration for Kuwaiti citizenship, but the rest belong to other countries, and has put pressure on them to reveal their actual identity. Bedoons however insist that they have full right to Kuwaiti citizenship and have been appealing and protesting to get it. Ghanem also insisted that the issue of Kuwaiti citizenship will not be involved in political bargaining, an indication that the planned solution may not stipulate naturalization of bedoons, or at least naturalization will be greatly limited.
Informed sources said the bedoon issue is being dealt with by three entities – the interior ministry, the central agency for bedoons and the National Assembly bureau – that are preparing a roadmap and implementation procedures to resolve the matter before the end of the year. They have agreed to hold continuous meetings to reach practical solutions to resolve this issue, which is distorting Kuwait’s humanitarian image.
The sources the roadmap will have two basic aspects. Those who have any official documents that indicate their presence in Kuwait before the 1965 census will be naturalized unless they have security restrictions or another nationality. Permanent residency will be granted to these people, and others included in the 1970 and 1975 censuses and beyond, provided they admit to having other nationalities.
The sources said the bedoons who do not confess to having other nationalities will be confronted with their official documents and old papers kept by security authorities proving that they entered Kuwait with these, and this is proof of their nationalities. Sources expected 20,000 of those included in the 1965 census to be naturalized out of a total of 34,000, but some of them left the country a long time ago, while others have criminal restrictions, in addition to some who obtained other nationalities. The sources said priority will be for bedoons in the military, degree holders and postgraduates, old-time workers in the oil sector and Kuwaiti women’s children.
By B Izzak and A Saleh