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Kuwait offers Bidoon Comoros citizenship

Kuwait’s decision to offer its Bidoon population (those without citizenship) the Comoros island’s nationality has been met with anger, with the Islamic Human Rights Commission labelling the move “an affront to human dignity and justice”.

In a statement released yesterday, the Assistant Undersecretary for Citizenship and Passport Affairs at the Ministry of Interior Major General Sheikh Mazen Al-Jarrah said the Bidoon, who are considered illegal residents in the Gulf state, would be illegible for Comoros passports and would receive residence permits in Kuwait as well as free education, healthcare and the ability to work in the country.

Comoros, an impoverished archipelago lying off the coast of east Africa, is a member of the Arab League that has, for years, suffered from unrest.

Activist on Bidoon rights Ahmed Al-Khalifa told the Anadolu Agency: “The Bidoon are divided into categories by the Central Committee [the body setup by the government to address the situation of the Bidoon] to get to this step.”

Who are the Bidoon?

Mostly, they are the descendants of nomadic Bedouins who settled in Kuwait both before and after the country’s independence in 1961. Kuwait identifies the Bidoon as “illegal residents” and believes that they are foreign nationals from neighbouring countries.

The approximately 120,000 Bidoon have been split into three groups by the committee. The first numbers approximately 35,000 and they are eligible for the Kuwaiti nationality, the second group can be granted residence permits on condition that they have their original nationality, while the third category has security limitations imposed on them and must leave the country.

Al-Khalifa added: “The target group is the weakest category, which the committee claims has security limitations and does not deserve citizenship.”

He stressed that this class possesses all the old documents that prove their existence before Kuwait’s independence in 1961.

Al-Khalifa explained that the “Bidoon reject this deal”, describing Kuwait’s decision as “selling and trafficking people”.

He went to say that “the issue of the sale and trafficking of human beings for investment and development projects is unacceptable and will not be accepted and has been rejected.”

The Bidoon’s statelessness has effectively rendered them second-class citizens in the Gulf emirate subject to systematic discrimination. Bidoon are not allowed access the country’s free healthcare and education systems.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission said it “views the Kuwaiti government’s citizenship offer as a cynical ploy to relieve itself of its own obligations to the Bidoon”.

“We also believe that accepting citizenship of a third country would also leave the Bidoon vulnerable to forced expulsion later on,” they said in a statement released today.

The Comoros government has so far not commented on the report.

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