Kuwait Country profile
The State of Kuwait is a country in Western Asia at the tip of the Persian Gulf and shares a border with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In 2016 it had a population of 4.5 million people, of which 70% were expatriates, or migrant workers.
Kuwait is a constitutional sovereign state with a semi-democratic political system, with a high-income economy back by the world’s sixth largest oil reserves.
Why are people leaving Kuwait?
While there are restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and migrant workers are inadequately protected against exploitation and abuse, the primary reason that people from Kuwait are coming to Lancaster is because they are members of the Bidun minority who face ongoing discrimination and the denial of their right to Kuwaiti nationality. Many have been arrested and imprisoned for peacefully demanding their rights to be treated as citizens.
The government currently categorizes Bidun as ‘illegal residents,’ despite the fact that many have no real connections to any country other than Kuwait, and in the face of decades of social discourse depicting Bidoon as connected to Kuwaiti territory. Due to their stateless status, Bidoon face difficulties in obtaining civil documents, finding employment, and accessing healthcare, education, and other social services provided to Kuwaiti citizens. As a result, many live in relative poverty and are relegated to working in the informal sector.
The Bidun were not included as citizens at the time of the country’s independence, and the government currently categorizes Bidun as ‘illegal residents,’. The term Bidun should not be conflated with Bedouin: the Bedouin are a much larger social-cultural category of desert-dwelling, nomadic pastoralists in the region, although there is some overlap between the two groups.
Due to their stateless status, Bidun face difficulties in obtaining civil documents, finding employment, and accessing healthcare, education, and other social services provided to Kuwaiti citizens. As a result, many live in relative poverty and are relegated to working in the informal sector. The government nevertheless maintains they enjoy human rights on an equal basis with the nationals of Kuwait.
In July, 2019, Kuwaiti authorities arrested more than a dozen people, including a leading rights activist, in a crackdown on protesters demanding greater rights for Bidun Arabs. Amnesty International reported that the protests were prompted by a fellow stateless person, 20-year-old Ayed Hamad Moudath, committing suicide for reportedly being unable to obtain official documents and ultimately losing his job.
A law passed in 2000 permitted the naturalization of Bidoon and their descendants, provided they could show that they were registered in the 1965 census, thereby proving that they were in the country at the time of independence. However, it has been reported that only a small number of Bidoon were able to acquire nationality through this process, and these were predominately those with wealth or connections. The yearly quota of 2,000 naturalizations, as stipulated by the law, was never met.
https://minorityrights.org/minorities/bidoon/Amnesty International Amnesty International