Uproar over suspension of bedoon bank accounts

KUWAIT: MPs and activists were up in arms yesterday over a decision by the central agency for bedoons to ask banks to suspend the accounts of bedoons – stateless people – who did not provide the necessary documents to renew their IDs. MPs threatened action against the government and particularly the interior minister amid threats to grill the minister by MP Mohammad Hayef. The central agency for bedoons however said reports about the suspension have been exaggerated.
A statement by the agency said the accounts of only 10 percent of the bedoons have been suspended because they did not provide the documents to renew their IDs, while the accounts of 90 percent of bedoons are active. Some 77,000 undocumented residents in Kuwait received their identification cards in the 2018, it said in the statement. The vast majority of Kuwait’s bedoons have access to state services, including free healthcare and education, the statement highlighted, warning that any attempted “circumvention of state laws” will be dealt with using legal force.

MPs supporting the cause of bedoons called on the Assembly to pass a draft law grating civil and social rights for bedoons, including permanent residencies, free health and education and public and private sector jobs among other benefits.

In another development, the National Assembly’s health and labor committee yesterday succumbed to pressure by the government and the business community and decided to rescind its earlier approval of increasing the annual leave for private sector employees to 35 days. Head of the committee MP Hamoud Al-Khudhair said yesterday the panel decided to reduce the annual leave back to 30 days as it was before the amendment.

The amendment had been approved by the committee about two months ago and then passed by the National Assembly in the first reading last month. The Assembly was due to pass the amendment in the second and final reading more than three weeks ago, but the government delayed the vote. The government clearly told the panel that the amendment harms the interests of Kuwaiti businessmen against a minor benefit to a small number of Kuwaitis employed in the private sector.

The overwhelming majority of employees in the private sector are foreigners, who would have been the main beneficiaries of the amendment. The Kuwait chamber of commerce and industry, which represents the business community, and the banking association also stepped up pressure to block the amendment. Khudhair told reporters that the annual leave will now remain at 30 days but without including rest days – which means Fridays and public holidays. The lawmaker however said the only amendment that will be debated on Tuesday is granting Kuwaitis in the private sector full end of service indemnity, besides getting pension after retirement.

By B Izzak