Call to naturalize 34,000 bedoons

KUWAIT: Eleven lawmakers yesterday called for forming a temporary parliamentary panel to study the issue of population imbalance and rampant visa trading. The lawmakers said the number of expatriates in Kuwait has increased to abnormal levels because of the government failure to provide employment to Kuwaitis to replace foreigners and due to failure to confront visa trading. This has led to serious implications on the country with nationals becoming a small minority of just 30 percent of the population of 4.4 million, the lawmakers said in a motion.

The motion will be submitted to the national assembly today to discuss whether to form the committee or not. The lawmakers want the committee to study the causes of the serious demographic imbalance and propose solutions besides investigating the visa trading issue.

They said the committee should present its findings by March 30 when a special assembly session should be convened to review the study. The new move comes after the national assembly failed to hold a special session to discuss the population issue two weeks ago because of the lack of quorum. A number of MPs have strongly criticized the presence of a large number of expatriates and some of them even directly attacked foreigners and called for imposing taxes on them.

In a related issue, MP Safa Al-Hashem, who has been very critical of expatriates, yesterday praised the assembly's health and labor committee for approving a draft law calling to impose health insurance on foreigners who arrive in Kuwait as only visitors. Hashem said that the insurance will be sizable and not symbolic. She criticized the government legal department for planning to hire 30 expatriate advisors and calling for giving the jobs to Kuwaitis.


MP Abdullah Fahhad meanwhile called on authorities to naturalize the 34,000 stateless people or bedoons whom the government is saying they are entitled to Kuwaiti citizenship. Fahhad, a member of the assembly committee for bedoon affairs, said that he had a big hope that the issue of the 120,000 bedoons will be resolved when the central agency for bedoons was established independent from the interior ministry.

But he said that the agency has unfairly treated the bedoons during the past few years and their issue remained unresolved. The lawmaker said that the agency officials told the assembly bedoons committee that 34,000 bedoons are entitled to the Kuwaiti citizenship and wondered why they are not given the nationality.

Fahhad also said that bedoons are living under oppressive circumstances and many of them have no jobs. He wished that their situation return to the pre-1990 era when they had humanitarian treatment. In the meantime, rapporteur of the committee MP said he will pay a visit to the bedoons agency and vowed that the issue of failing to renew the bedoons' special identification cards will be resolved.

The national assembly meanwhile holds its regular session today and is expected to discuss whether it can hold a special debate on the bank deposits scandal in which 13 present and former MPs are accused of accepting millions of dinars in bribes.

By B Izzak