Kuwait mulls granting citizenship to 34,000 stateless people
KUWAIT CITY - The Gulf state of Kuwait, home to 105,000 stateless people, may grant citizenship to 34,000 of them, the head of a government authority overseeing their affairs has said.
"We will consider making a recommendation to grant citizenship to 34,000 stateless," head of the central agency for illegal residents, Saleh al-Fadhalah, told state-run Kuwait TV late on Wednesday.
The official pledged that a lasting solution for stateless people, whom the government describes as illegal residents, will be implemented over the next five years.
The stateless, known locally as bidoons, claim the right to Kuwaiti nationality, saying that their ancestors failed to register for citizenship when the government began registration five decades ago.
Fadhalah, however, said that his agency has established that 71,000 bidoons are in fact Iraqis, Saudis, Syrians, Iranians and others, and "must produce their nationality papers" to be given legal residence permits.
Kuwait has long said that bidoons or their forefathers destroyed their original passports to claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship in order to gain access to the services and generous benefits provided to citizens.
In a bid to force them to produce their original nationality papers, Kuwait has denied them essential documentation, including birth, marriage and death certificates, according to a report in June by Human Rights Watch.
Hundreds of stateless staged demonstrations in February and March, and again in the past two weeks to demand citizenship and other rights, including the right to work. Police used force to disperse them.
Fifty-two stateless are on trial for illegal assembly and assaulting police, while around 30 more were arrested on Monday and are being questioned by prosecutors.