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Kuwait to review passport policy for stateless
May 9, 2016, 4:24 pm
After Thailand murder, government says it will not give stateless passports for tourism purposes

Kuwait is to toughen up its measures regarding handing passports to stateless people residing in the country following the murder of a Kuwaiti citizen in Thailand.

The Kuwaiti army officer was stabbed to death during a fight on Saturday at a cafe in south Pattaya with two men described as “stateless”, a term that refers to long term residents of Kuwait who have not been granted citizenship.

“Under the new measures, we will give passports only to those who need them for studies or medical treatment abroad, overseas business deals or to go to Makkah for Umrah or Haj,” Shaikh Mazen Al Jarrah, the Assistant Undersecretary for Citizenship and Passports Affairs, said. “We will not give passports to those who want to travel abroad for tourism or other purposes,” Al Jarrah told Kuwaiti daily Al Anba.

In such cases, passports granted by Kuwaiti authorities to stateless people function only as travel documents, and not documents of citizenship.

The senior officer said that they would not revoke the passports already given to stateless people.

“However, when they will apply to renew their passports, we will assess whether they need them. They will be renewed only for those who need them under the new categories,” he said.

The decision is fully consistent with the right of free movement, he added.

“We are fully committed to human rights and the rights to travel. However, the stateless people who do know their origins should regularise their situation and obtain their passports from their countries of origin. They know perfectly well where they come from. We are not obliged to hand passports to those who are not Kuwaitis,” the daily quoted him as saying on Monday.

The new measures will be applied to the two presumed killers of the Kuwaiti army officer.

“They committed a crime in a country and they will be tried and sent to jail for a long time there. By then, their passports will be expired and they will not be allowed back into Kuwait. They will have to go to their country of origin,” he said.

The presence of thousands of Bedoun (stateless) living in Kuwait has been one of the thorniest issues in the country despite efforts to reach satisfactory solutions.

No official figures about their real number exist, but estimates put them at around 110,000.

However, Kuwaiti authorities insist that only 34,000 “illegal residents” — as they are called — qualify for consideration for citizenship, while the others are first generation immigrants, mainly from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria, who moved to Kuwait following the discovery of oil, and their descendants.

It is believed that many of the Bedoun who had moved to Kuwait in the 1960s and 1970s concealed their nationality in order to remain in Kuwait.

Kuwaiti citizenship is transferred only through the father, and the children of Bedoun men who marry Kuwaiti wives cannot obtain Kuwaiti nationality.

In 2012, under a scheme to help address the issue, Kuwaiti authorities said that the Bidoon staying illegally in Kuwait can be granted five-year residence permits by producing the passport of their country of origin and thus regularise their situation in the country

The new status allows those above 21 years of age to sponsor themselves for the next five years. Those who are below 21 are granted a five-year residence visa as family members.

Beneficiaries of the scheme do not pay fees for the duration of their permits and are handed special cards that guarantee them free health and education services.

Source: Gulf News

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