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21 May 2024

Kuwait to naturalise some stateless within weeks


Kuwait will start granting citizenship to some stateless people by early February, the interior minister said in remarks published on Sunday.

"The first batch of citizenships (to stateless) will be announced by the end of January or the beginning of February at the latest," Sheikh Ahmad al-Humud Al-Sabah told Al-Rai newspaper, without giving further details.

Of the 105,000 people considered stateless, four groups could qualify for citizenship, the minister said last week.

These include: people in the army or police; people recorded in the 1965 census; relatives of Kuwaitis; and children of Kuwaiti women divorced from foreign husbands.

Saleh al-Fadhalah, who heads the government's central agency for illegal residents that deals with the stateless, said last month that there are 34,000 stateless people who could qualify for citizenship.

According to his agency's findings, 71,000 stateless people in Kuwait in fact hold other nationalities from countries including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria, Fadhalah said.

Those people "must produce their nationality papers" to be given legal residence permits in Kuwait, Fadhalah has said.

Thousands of stateless, locally known as bidoons, have been demonstrating for the past several weeks to press for citizenship and other basic rights they claim they have been deprived of.

Sheikh Ahmad however said that the ministry will not allow any further protests by bidoons.

Kuwait has long alleged that bidoons, and in some cases their ancestors, 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 by the state.

In a bid to force the bidoons to produce their original nationality papers, Kuwait has refused to issue essential documents to most of them, including birth, marriage and death certificates, according to a June report by Human Rights Watch.