Kuwait: Whether Bedoun residents who were included in the 1965 census are able to obtain citizenship; whether Bedoun residents can access healthcare, education and employment; information on Bedoun mobility rights, including whether an individual with a Bedoun card, who was registered in the 1965 census, but who left Kuwait illegally without a passport, is able to return to Kuwait [KWT104009.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

According to the Arab News, an English-language newspaper in Saudi Arabia (Arab News n.d.), the estimated number of Bedoun residents in Kuwait is between 100,000 and 120,000 out of a population of 2,8 million (ibid. 21 Feb. 2011). Bedoun, which means "without citizenship" (ibid.), are also referred to as Bidun (Human Rights Watch June 2011), Bidoon (AFP 17 Jan. 2012), or as Bedouin (Arab News 21 Feb. 2011).

According to Human Rights Watch report Prisoners of the Past: Kuwaiti Bidun and the Burden of Statelessness,

[d]uring the 1960s and 70s, the Bidun received economic and social benefits equal to those of Kuwaiti citizens, including free health care and education, though they could not vote. Regional political instability during the 1980s and 1990s led the government to significantly shift its policy towards the Bidun by downgrading their status to that of “illegal residents,” revoking benefits, and excluding them from government services and jobs. (June 2011, 3)

Human Rights Watch indicates that Bedoun residents do not receive civil identification cards issued to citizens and legal non-Kuwaiti residents, which are the "sole form of identification accepted for many purposes including purchasing property, legally registering as an employee, and enrolling in most schools or educational institutions" (ibid., 5). Instead, those Bedoun residents who registered with the Bedoun committee ["the Central System to Resolve Illegal Residents’ Status … the sole government body through which Bidun can register and seek resolution of their claims for Kuwaiti citizenship" (Human Rights Watch June 2011, 4)] between 1996 and 2000 as "stateless with claims to Kuwaiti nationality," were issued the "security cards" (Human Rights Watch June 2011, 5). These cards help to protect Bedoun residents from deportation and allow them to access any service the government provides to the Bedoun, such as access to a "government-administered health care provision program" (ibid.). However, Bedoun residents who want to obtain other documents such as birth, marriage, and death certificates must apply to the Bedoun committee for approval (ibid.). The Human Rights Watch report states that the committee maintains files that include information on all security card holders and "many files allegedly include information collected from secret intelligence sources which indicate that the card holder has a non-Kuwait 'true nationality'" (ibid.). If the committee determines that an individual has a "true nationality" of another country, he or she may be denied approval for a birth certificate or other documents (ibid.).

According to the Human Rights Watch report, the Kuwaiti government issues "temporary passports" to Bedoun residents who hold security cards (ibid., 29), However, in practice, those passports are granted to Bedoun residents only for one trip, to travel for "education, medical treatment, or religious pilgrimage" (ibid.). In order to obtain a "temporary passport," an individual must first obtain "clearance" from the Bedoun committee and, according to Human Rights Watch, "this procedure remains an obstacle to many Bidun passport seekers" (ibid.). Those who do not hold security cards are not eligible to receive temporary passports (ibid., 30).

Human Rights Watch says that the "Nationality law of 1959 has been amended more than a dozen times since its passage, with each amendment creating more stringent requirements for those claiming citizenship" (ibid., 4), and goes on to give the following illustration:

The law excludes many long-term residents of Kuwait, some of whom have had no ties to other countries for generations, if at all, from obtaining Kuwaiti nationality, and renders stateless many children born on Kuwaiti soil to families who have lived there for generations. (ibid.)

Sources say that Kuwaiti government officials promised to take new measures to improve the situation of Bedoun residents (Kuwait Times 27 Aug. 2011; Human Rights Watch June 2011, 3), by protecting eleven new rights for them, "including rights to civil documentation, education, and health," (ibid., 4) and granting Kuwaiti citizenship to all Bedoun residents "who can provide full documentary proof that they or their ancestors were residents in the country [on] or before 1965" (Kuwait Times 27 Aug. 2011). However, according to the Human Rights Watch report, "to date … the Bidun still hold the precarious legal status of 'illegal residents' in the country … [and] the newly proposed reforms do nothing to correct" the situation (Human Rights Watch June 2011, 4). Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports Kuwaiti government claims that only 34,000 out of the 105,000 Bedoun residents are eligible for citizenship, "while the remaining 71,000 are citizens of other countries who must produce their original passports" (17 Jan. 2012). In addition, Human Rights Watch says that the procedures for claiming Kuwaiti citizenship are "opaque, … applicants may never be told the reason for non-review, delay, or denial of nationality … [and] Bidun [cannot] challenge matters relating to their citizenship claims or status through the judicial system" (June 2011, 4).

AFP reports that Bedoun residents took part in protests in January 2012 demanding the right to Kuwaiti citizenship (17 Jan. 2012). According to AFP, more than 100 Bedoun protesters were arrested, and "the government also decided to confiscate security IDs from [Bedoun] protesters, their only form of identification, … cancel their applications for Kuwaiti nationality … [and] deport some of the Bidoon" (AFP 17 Jan. 2012). A subsequent report says that protesters were "questioned on charges of assaulting policemen and taking part in illegal gatherings" (ibid. 26 Jan. 2012). Both Arab News and AFP reported on similar protests about a year earlier (Arab News 21 Feb. 2011; AFP 26 Jan. 2012). Fifty-two Bedoun residents were reported to have been arrested in protests in February and March 2011 (ibid.).

Information on Bedoun mobility rights, including whether an individual with a Bedoun card, who was registered in the 1965 census, but who left Kuwait illegally without a passport, is able to return to Kuwait could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 26 January 2012. "Kuwait Detains Stateless Protesters for 3 Weeks." (Factiva)

_____. 17 Jan. 2012. "Kuwait to Deport Stateless Protesters: Report." (Factiva)

Arab News. 21 February 2011. David E. Miller. "Kuwait Stateless Demand Rights." <http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article275672.ece> [Accessed 13 Feb. 2012]

_____. N.d. "About Us." <http://arabnews.com/about/> [Accessed 13 Feb. 2012]

Human Rights Watch. June 2011. Prisoners of the Past: Kuwaiti Bidun and the Burden of Statelessness. <http://www.hrw.org/reports/2011/06/13/prisoners-past> [Accessed 13 Feb. 2012]

Kuwait Times. 27 August. 2011. A. Saleh. "KHRS, CSRSIR Discuss Bedoon Naturalization." <http://www.kuwaittimes.net/read_news.php?newsid=NTI5MTYwMDYwNQ> [Accessed 10 Feb. 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Representatives of the embassies of the State of Kuwait in Ottawa and Washington, the Refugees International and academics of the Kuwait Program of the Science Po University in Paris were unable to provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Al-Anba; Al Watan Daily; Freedom House; Kuwait – Kuwait Municipality; Ministry of Interior; the Public Authority for Civil Information; Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor; Kuwait University; Political Handbook of the World; Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford University, United Kingdom; Science Po University, Paris; United Nations News Centre.