Kuwait: Mandate of abusive government body in charge of stateless Bidun people extended

Responding to the Kuwaiti government’s decision to extend by a year the mandate of an official agency that has consistently and systematically denied the rights of the stateless Bidun people, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Lynn Maalouf, said:

“It is deeply disappointing that the Kuwaiti authorities saw fit to extend the mandate of the Central System for the Remedy of the Situation of Illegal Residents – rather than address the pressing need for justice, accountability and the reform of the agency.

“Over the past decade, this agency has been responsible for violating the rights of the Bidun people by denying them vital identity documents unless they agree to state that they and their families are not from Kuwait. Without these papers, scores of Biduns are deprived from being able to get a job, go to school or access health care. They are condemned to a life of poverty and hardship on the margins of society.

It is deeply disappointing that the Kuwaiti authorities saw fit to extend the mandate of the Central System for the Remedy of the Situation of Illegal Residents – rather than address the pressing need for justice, accountability and the reform of the agency.
Lynn Maalouf

“The Kuwaiti authorities must put an end to the discrimination and marginalization of Bidun individuals and stop treating them as illegal residents. Rather than simply renewing the mandate of an institution that has contributed to this marginalization, the authorities must speedily revise the Agency’s working procedures so that it immediately ceases to pressure Bidun individuals to surrender their Kuwaiti nationality and so as to ensure the right to informed consent. More generally, the authorities must put an end to the discrimination and marginalization of Bidun people by creating a path to citizenship under transparent and objective standards”.

Background

On 11 November, the Kuwaiti Cabinet renewed the mandate of the Central System for the Remedy of the Situation of Illegal Residents for a year.

The agency, which was established in 2010 with a mandate to resolve the Bidun issue, claims that nearly all Biduns are “illegal residents” who entered Kuwait illegitimately and are falsely claiming Kuwaiti origin while concealing their “true” nationalities.

The agency has consistently refused to issue any identity documents – necessary for almost every commercial and administrative transaction in modern Kuwaiti life – until the Biduns under its authority are compelled to say that they and their families are not from Kuwait.

Biduns entering the agency’s offices are frequently told to sign documents that state that the signatories and/or their family members are from outside Kuwait, or even, are asked to sign documents that they are not allowed to see.