The National Assembly

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Opposition MP Thamer Al-Suwait yesterday submitted a draft law stipulating wide-ranging civil and humanitarian rights including a permanent residency for tens of thousands of stateless people or bedoons who have been living for decades in the country. The lawmaker called for ending what he called a "state of legislative paralysis" regarding the humanitarian cause of bedoons, whose plight has been repeatedly debated by parliaments over the past few decades but without reaching a conclusive solution.

Some 120,000 bedoons live in the country and claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship, saying their forefathers lived in Kuwait decades ago. The government however insists that only less than a third of them qualify for consideration for Kuwaiti citizenship, while the rest are nationals of neighboring countries. In recent years, MPs sympathetic to the rights of bedoons have called for granting them basic rights in education, jobs and health while authorities continue to investigate if they have a right to citizenship.

The draft law stipulates that bedoons be granted special identification cards through which they can have access to civil and social rights, mainly permanent residency in the country. Based on the cards, bedoons will be entitled to free medication and healthcare, including for bedoons with special needs.

Bedoons will also get free school and university education, birth and death certificates, driving licenses and passports based on the law, and the right to work in the public and private sectors with equal treatment to citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. The bill also calls for allowing bedoons to own real estate for private housing only, get all personal status rights like marriage and divorce certificates and also obtain end of service indemnity and other financial rights in accordance with the law. Similar laws have been submitted to the National Assembly in the past and some had been debated, but without any conclusive result that obliges the government to implement the proposals.