Font Size

- Aa +

Sat 11 Feb 2012 10:38 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Kuwait must act to help Bidoon, says rights group

US-based Human Rights Group says gov't must act now to address citizenship claims

Kuwait must act to help Bidoon, says rights group
Stateless Arabs, known as bidoon, protest to demand citizenship and other rights in Jahra, 50 km northwest of Kuwait City, on January 6. (Getty Images)

Kuwait’s government should follow through on promises to address citizenship claims of stateless residents, known as Bidoon, Human Rights Watch has said.

The government should also amend its national laws to protect domestic workers following the approval of a new international treaty on decent work for domestic workers last June.

Starting in February, hundreds of stateless people in Kuwait held numerous demonstrations demanding citizenship.

The Interior Ministry warned Bidoon not to demonstrate and violently dispersed protests on several occasions withwater cannons, tear gas, smoke bombs, and sound bombs.

A committee set up in November 2010 promised some rights to Bidoon, such as identification papers and access to public education.

However only 16,000 citizenship applications have been approved in the past 20 years, recent news reports said, citing a statement by the head of the committee.

“Following decades of broken promises, Kuwait needs to act now to address the plight of the Bidoon,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“Punishing Bidoon for protesting while refusing to act on their citizenship claims shows how little respect the government has for their rights.” 

In its 676-page World Report 2012, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including popular uprisings in the Arab world that few would have imagined.

At least 106,000 Bidoon, considered illegal residents by the authorities, live in Kuwait.

Many have lived in Kuwait all their lives or for many years, but, without citizenship, they are denied many rights citizens have to education, health care, employment, and travel, HRW said.

HRW also said Kuwait need to act to protect domestic workers following the government's vote to adopt the International Labour Organization’s Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers last June.

In 2010, Kuwait had more than 660,000 migrant domestic workers, many of whom have reported forced confinement in the houses where they work; long work hours without rest; long periods of unpaid wages; and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

“Voting to adopt the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers was a step in the right direction and Kuwait should be proud of it,” Stork said.

“Now Kuwait needs to act on the vote by ratifying the treaty and amending its national laws to protect these workers.”