Kuwait’s Speaker proposes bill that could address 'bidoon' nationality law

Nearly 120,000 stateless people who have lived in country for decades claim right to citizenship

Speaker Ahmad Al Sadoun has proposed a bill he hopes will address the long-standing debate surrounding Kuwait’s stateless bidoon people. EPA
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Kuwait’s National Assembly Speaker has proposed a bill he hopes will address the long-standing debate surrounding the country’s nationality law and issues of citizenship applications, including the plight of stateless people known as the “bidoon”.

Ahmad Al Saadoun said on Sunday his draft legislation would address issues faced by three main categories of people.

They are those who applied for Kuwaiti nationality to the Higher Nationality Commission at the Cabinet, those who applied through the Martyrs’ Office at the Amiri Diwan covering relatives of non-Kuwaitis who lost their lives in battles, as well as the bidoon.

Nearly 120,000 of the bidoon have been living in Kuwait for decades, claiming the right to citizenship and the generous welfare benefits that accompany it.

Subsequent Kuwaiti governments have said that only 34,000 qualify for consideration for citizenship, while the rest are economic migrants from neighbouring countries or their descendants without any solid claim.

Mr Al Saadoun’s bill would compel the government to provide a comprehensive solution to the first two groups within a year of publishing their names under an official list.

The bill would also require that the government provide a solution for the bidoon within a period to be later set by the Cabinet.

Large numbers of bidoon people fought for Kuwait during Iraq’s invasion of the country in 1990.

Mr Al Saadoun was elected to the parliamentary Speaker position last month following early elections on September 29 after Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal dissolved Parliament in an attempt to end a political stand-off between the government and the legislature that hindered fiscal reforms.

The Kuwaiti National Assembly will next convene on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the Emiri address delivered at the inauguration of Parliament, as well as requests to lift the parliamentary immunity of MPs Obaid Al Mutairi and Hamed Al Bathali.

Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al Sabah has vowed to move swiftly forward with a reform agenda following a last-minute reshuffle of his Cabinet last month before it was sworn into office.

Updated: November 14, 2022, 10:13 AM