Kuwait to Grant 2,000 New Citizenships a Year

Published May 17th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Kuwait's parliament on Wednesday approved a law that would grant citizenship to 2,000 adults and their families each year, double the current ceiling for the emirate's stateless Arabs. 

The law, passed by a large margin, is tailored to speed up a solution to the problem of more than 100,000 stateless Arabs, commonly known as bidoons ("without" in Arabic). 

It gives the government the power to naturalize up to 2,000 adults and their dependents each year, a total of around 10,000 people with spouses and children. The current yearly ceiling on new citizenships is 1,000 adults. 

Parliament already voted on Tuesday to ease the oil-rich emirate's rigid nationality law to make it easier for stateless Arabs resident in the country since 1965 to apply for citizenship. 

Under the old nationality law, only those Arabs who had lived in Kuwait since 1945 and foreigners who had been resident since 1930 were eligible to apply for citizenship. 

Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Khaled al-Sabah told parliament that some 36,700 bidoons would qualify to apply under the amended law. 

During Wednesday's session, the interior minister also explained that not all the 36,700 would be granted nationality, but only those who passed a long process of tests. 

The government has previously warned the bidoons that they have only until June 27 to legalize their status or face legal action. 

The bidoons currently number some 112,000, down from 225,000 prior to the Iraqi invasion in August 1990. After the 1991 Gulf War which ended the occupation, a large number of bidoon suspected to be Iraqis were deported to Iraq. 

Some bidoons are from families based without official status in Kuwait for several generations, while others are mostly Arab economic migrants attracted by the oil boom of the 1950s. 

The Kuwaiti government has long claimed that many bidoon, who can only work unofficially, are concealing their original nationality in a bid to obtain citizenship to enjoy the state's generous welfare system -- KUWAIT CITY (AFP)  


© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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