Manama: The Kuwaiti government has refused a proposal by the parliament to grant Kuwaiti citizenship to at least 2,000 stateless people in 2017; however, it said it would consider naturalising those who can trace their Kuwait roots to 1965 without specifying the number of people who would benefit from the process.
“It is very difficult to grant Kuwaiti citizenship to 2,000 stateless people all at once,” the government told the Interior and Defence Committee at the parliament, Kuwaiti daily Al Rai reported on Monday.
The government said it could not guarantee it would be able to accommodate all requests for naturalisation.
Kuwait has been looking into ways to address the issue of the approximately 105,000 stateless residents who have been seeking Kuwaiti citizenship, as well as civil and social rights.
Stateless people claim they are the descendants of nomads who roamed the area but never asked for citizenship when Kuwait became independent in 1961.
They are mostly Arabs or descendants of Arabs who moved to Kuwait following the discovery of oil and deliberately got rid of their original passports to seek citizenship in the rich country that offered huge benefits to its citizens.
In 2010, in a new effort to find a solution to the issue, Kuwait set up the Central Apparatus for Illegal Residents.
The agency encouraged them to declare their original nationality and offered them incentives that included residency visas renewable every five years, health care, education and ration cards.
Other privileges included second priority in employment after Kuwaiti nationals and the facilitation of procedures for obtaining driver licences.
In November 2015, the government said that 7,243 illegal residents regularised their status in the country between 2011 and October 2015 and reverted to their Saudi, Iraqi, Iranian, Jordanian and other nationalities.
Call for amnesty rejected
The government also rejected a proposal by lawmakers to issue a general amnesty to people who committed crimes between 2011 and September 2016.
Most cases are linked to state security and don’t qualify for amnesty, the government said.
Several lawmakers have been pushing the government to grant general amnesty to criminals in line with pledges they made during the parliament campaigning trail.