MORONI: A delegation representing the first Kuwaiti parliamentary friendship group arrived in the Comoros Friday on an official visit. Head of the group MP Saud Al-Huraiji was quoted in the press last week as saying that MPs would attempt during their visit to validate reports about settling bedoons, or stateless residents in Kuwait, in the Comoros.
The visiting delegation held talks yesterday with their counterparts in the Comoros that focused on boosting bilateral relations, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported. It did not specify however whether the issue of bedoons was discussed or not.
Although reports last year had suggested that governments of Kuwait and the Comoros discussed the possibility of granting the African nation’s citizenship to stateless residents, the issue of resettling ‘bedoons’ there was not addressed. Huraiji said last week that the visit would include attending four workshops on the settlement of bedoons in the Comoros to probe the credibility of recent talks about it. “We are keen on returning with verified news about this topic because I do not think what has been said is true, but we want to make sure,” he remarked.
Kuwait is home to over 100,000 illegal residents who seek Kuwaiti citizenship as well as civil and social rights. However, the government says that only 34,000 are qualified for consideration while the rest are Arabs or descendants of Arab people who moved to Kuwait following the discovery of oil and deliberately disposed of their original passports to seek citizenship in the oil-rich country.
Last November, Interior Ministry’s Assistant Undersecretary for Citizenship and Passports Affairs Major General Mazen Al-Jarrah confirmed that the issue pertaining with the 34,000 illegal residents is being studied in cooperation with the Central Apparatus for Illegal Residents; a state body established in 2010 to find a final solution to the decades-old problem. He added that while those people have documents to prove they were registered in the 1965 census – a prerequisite for consideration to receive citizenship – further filtering could render some files disqualified due to security and other reasons.
The National Assembly approved last Tuesday several recommendations pertinent to the conditions of illegal residents. The recommendations included the naturalization of worthy illegal residents, mainly the children of martyrs, Kuwaitis’ relatives and military personnel. They also called for handing out ‘security cards’ to illegal residents who are not included in naturalization lists so that they could gain access to basic humanitarian and social rights, recruiting them at military and government agencies and bodies as well as the private sector, and for reconsidering existing security restrictions on illegal residents’ families. Furthermore, illegal residents should be given access to birth and death certificates, marriage and divorce contracts, driving licenses and public schools.
Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah had warned that the government would abstain from voting unless such recommendations were reformulated. But, he had assured that the issue of illegal residents was given top priority by the government.
Kuwait first entertained the idea of providing the Comoros’ citizenship to ‘bedoons’ in 2014, following on the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates in this field. Under a plan reportedly discussed between the governments of the two nations, illegal residents would obtain Comoros’ citizenship and retain the rights to reside in Kuwait under Article 22 (self-sponsorship), to free education and health care, and to employment. Meanwhile, Kuwait would build schools, institutes and houses in the island-nation. Kuwait insists that no stateless resident would be forcibly deported as a subsequence of this plan.
Kuwait has for over six years been encouraging ‘bedoons’ to legalize their status by obtaining documents that show their original nationalities, announcing benefits to those who do so including residency permits, free-of-charge education and health services, supply cards, and priority recruitment after Kuwaiti nationals in public agencies and bodies. Last November, Kuwaiti authorities announced that over 7,000 stateless people have regulated their status since 2011.
President of the Comoros Ikililou Dhoinine met yesterday with visiting Kuwaiti lawmakers, with whom he discussed bolstering Comorian-Kuwaiti relations. While he touted the progress of bilateral relations, he said these relations would be boosted further after the official opening of his country’s embassy in Kuwait, KUNA reported.
Speaking for the Kuwaiti delegation of lawmakers, Huraiji said the Kuwaiti lawmakers’ visit to the Comoros is part of the Kuwaiti National Assembly’s program for visit exchanges with the parliaments of friendly countries, aiming at strengthening bilateral ties in all fields.
Meanwhile, Acting President of the Assembly of the Union of the Comoros Hashem Bambara met with the Kuwaiti lawmakers, welcoming their visit, and finding it a propitious chance to boost legislative contacts between the two nations’ lawmakers. He expressed the desire of Comorian lawmakers to gain knowledge from the democratic experience in Kuwait.
To a query by Kuwaiti MP Hamadan Al-Azmi regarding the possible existence of investment impediments in the Comoros, Bambara said the major obstacle was in the problem of providing uninterrupted energy. Comorian MP Ali Ahmad had welcomed the Kuwaiti delegation, noting that it was the first such visit to his country by Kuwaiti lawmakers. Huraiji said the visit afforded both sides the opportunity to exchange viewpoints and expertise on plethora of mutual issues.