From Lord Avebury
September 19, 2008
Thank you for your letter of August 13 about the Kuwaiti Bidoon.
Frankly, its hard to credit assurances of future intentions, even when they are as modest as the granting of citizenship to the 500 in government employment. On February 14, 1995, Douglas Hogg MP, then Minister, told me that the government had set up a committee the previous year ‘to recommend ways of regularising the position of those who are genuinely stateless or who have been long term residents of Kuwait’, and as you know, other promises have been made intermittently before and since then, none of which came to anything.
BBC Monitoring yields only three references to the Bidoon. One is a denial of a Kuwaiti plan to settle them in the Comoros, and the other two are about a study by the Saudi Ministry of the Interior launching a study ‘with the aim of finding solutions to their problems’, putting them roughly where the Kuwaiti Bidoon were in 1995. This is a regional problem, and rather than each country desultorily looking at it from a domestic point of view, we should urge the GCC to look for a common solution, and do so within a fixed timetable, with legal help from the international community.
BBC Monitoring didn’t translate the article in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas which described citizenship as ‘the most important issue on the table of the executive and legislative authorities for long years…’ and they say ‘there is no serious will to close this file’. (Refugees International Bulletin September 17, 2008, www.refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/10836).
The process of dividing the Bidoon into three categories, as described by the Interior Minister in June, is another way of putting off a comprehensive solution. It will take time to design this scheme, and then presumably it would need Parliamentary approval. If it goes ahead, a few thousand might be granted citizenship in several years time, and in the meanwhile, the number of births of non-citizens may cancel out the number granted citizenship in the first of the three categories. As the Refugees International Bulletin points out, we invaded Kuwait to rectify a violation of international law that affected its inhabitants. The denial of citizenship to a large number of people born in the territory of the state is also a violation of international law, and it needs to be remedied without further procrastination.
Could we please discuss these issues with our colleagues in other EU member states, and agree on a demarche to step up the pressure on the GCC for a solution for all the Bidoon in the region?
Dr Kim Howells MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office,
London SW1A 2AH