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Kuwait mulls guaranteed citizenship for bedouns
January 4, 2014, 11:23 am

A Kuwaiti MP is pushing for the government to approve legislation that would give citizenship to a compulsory number of stateless people each year as it attempts to reduce the high number of bedouns recorded in the country, according to local English daily Kuwait Times.

Last year, the government doubled the number of people that could be naturalised each year from 2,000 to 4,000.

However, no new citizenships were given to bedouins last year.

The illegal status of the Bedouns, many of whom were born in Kuwait and have ancestors who have lived there for decades, also has caused problems for government departments that hire them.

On Wednesday, the defence and interior departments were ordered to replace terminology referring to stateless people as “illegal residents” with “non-Kuwaiti” to avoid any legal challenge over their employment.

It is estimated there more than 100,000 stateless people living in Kuwait. Their status means they do not have social or civil rights.

The Central Apparatus for Illegal Residents was established in 2010 and given a five-year deadline to deal with the problem, including introducing new benefits for stateless people such as the right to obtain a marriage, death or birth certificate and a driver’s licence, and identifying those that could be given citizenship.

Qualification for citizenship includes having an ancestor who served in the Kuwaiti military or having a Kuwaiti mother (those with a Kuwaiti father already qualify at birth).

The government estimates only about 34,000 bedouins meet the criteria. It claims the others are Arabs who deliberately disposed of their passports after travelling to the oil-rich country.

There also is a high number of people who claim to be stateless in other Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia.

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