Kuwait says stateless to be offered Comoros citizenship

The shield of the Kuwait's National Assembly hangs at the entrance of the building in Kuwait City on June 18, 2012 (AFP Photo/Yasser al-Zayyat)

Kuwait City (AFP) - Tens of thousands of stateless people in oil-rich Kuwait will be offered citizenship of the impoverished African nation of Comoros to end their decades-old problem, the government said Sunday.

The stateless people -- known as bidoons -- would be granted "special applications for Comoros' economic citizenship," Kuwait's interior ministry assistant undersecretary Major-General Mazen al-Jarrah told Al-Jarida daily.

Those who accept the offer would be given free residence permits in Kuwait, in addition to a series of incentives like free education and healthcare and the right to employment, Jarrah was quoted as saying.

The process would start as soon as an embassy for Comoros is opened in Kuwait in the coming months.

But a lawmaker Faisal al-Duwaisan, a member of parliament's human rights committee, described the move as "very grave" and vowed to file a motion to question the prime minister if the government implements its decision.

He said the announcement means the government has been providing false information to lawmakers suggesting that stateless people hold nationalities of other countries. "If this is true, the government should deport them to their home countries and not to Comoros," he said.

More than 110,000 stateless people were born and raised in Kuwait and claim the right to citizenship in the Gulf emirate.

The Kuwaiti government, which describes them as illegal residents, says only 34,000 qualify for consideration for citizenship.

The rest are considered natives of other countries who either emigrated to Kuwait after the discovery of oil five decades ago or were born to these migrants.

In the past three years, bidoons have held demonstrations to demand citizenship and other basic rights, and police have dispersed them using force, arresting hundreds who are on trial for illegal protests and assaulting police.

A Kuwaiti lawmaker in April proposed to send stateless people convicted of breaching public security and protesting to a camp he suggested should be built in the desert.

Comoros is an archipelago state located off eastern Africa and is a member of the Arab League.