Assembly-government meeting nods to Bedoon law

KUWAIT: An expanded meeting led by National Assembly Speaker Marzouk Al-Ghanem and attended by top government officials including ministers yesterday approved a draft law for a durable and fundamental solution for tens of thousands of stateless people or Bedoons living in the country, the Speaker said.

Ghanem told reporters that Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh, the Justice Minister in addition to top representatives for the foreign and interior ministries attended the meeting - the first of its kind at this level to look into a solution for the decades-old Bedoons problem. Head of the government agency for Bedoons Saleh Al-Fadhalah and the head of the UN refugees body also attended.

Ghanem revealed no details on the nature of the solution or any details about the draft law but said another meeting for NGOs and activists will be held later in the Assembly to discuss the issue. He said the law will be finalized before the new term of the National Assembly opens next month and will be submitted to the Assembly for debate and approval in the new term.

KUWAIT: National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem (center) and top government officials including ministers are pictured during an expanded meeting yesterday.

The Speaker reiterated that the proposed solution will not undermine the national identity of Kuwait and aims at providing a fundamental and lasting solution for Bedoons whose unofficial count stands at 120,000. Bedoons claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship but the government insists that a majority of Bedoons or their forefathers crossed the border from neighboring countries and destroyed their identification documents to claim the right to Kuwaiti nationality.

The government however has repeatedly acknowledged that around 34,000 of the Bedoons qualify for consideration for citizenship but the rest belong to other countries. Authorities have stepped up pressure on the Bedoons to force them to reveal their original identity. A majority of the Bedoons however rejected government claims.

Just before the National Assembly went into summer recess some two months ago, its human rights panel approved a draft law to grant Bedoons full humanitarian and civil rights that include free education, medical services and allow them to get jobs in the private and public sectors.

By B Izzak