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‘Govt intends to naturalize large number of deserving Bedouns’ Panel rejects request to lift immunity of Al-Kandari

KUWAIT CITY, March 9: The government intends to naturalize a large number of Bedouns who deserve citizenship soon, says Chairman of the parliamentary Bedoun Affairs Committee Abdullah Al-Tamimi. Speaking to the press after the committee meeting Sunday, Al-Tamimi revealed they met Head of the Central System for Remedying the Status of Illegal Residents (CSRSIR) Saleh Al-Fadalah and some other officials of the agency. He confirmed that these officials unveiled the plan of the executive authority to grant citizenship to deserving applicants soon without specifying the date. Al-Fadalah also told the panel that the CSRSIR will submit to the Parliament the list of those who will be naturalized including the children of divorcees, widows, military personnel and oil ministry employees, as well as those included in the 1965 Census, but again, he did not mention the date of submission, the lawmaker added.

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary General for Executive Affairs at CSRSIR retired Major General Najeeb Al-Othman affirmed the agency strictly implements the plan laid down by the Cabinet on the naturalization of Bedouns. He said the CSRSIR classified the applicants into three groups — those eligible for naturalization, those who will be granted long-term residence permits after correcting their status, and those required to correct their status within a certain period. He asserted the agency continues to monitor the application of decision number 409/2011 on providing facilities and privileges to Bedouns in various government authorities. He said that as at the end of 2013, the number of birth and death certificates issued to this group within a period of three years was 24,400; while the number of marriage and divorce certificates issued to them by the Ministry of Justice reached 2,084 in 2013 alone. He added the Education Charitable Fund shouldered the school fees of 15,000 Bedoun students for academic year 2013/2014; while those registered in the agency have been given food ration cards, and Bedoun children have been given the right to obtain driving licenses and registration of cars.

He went on to say the agency has also provided job opportunities to Bedouns, specifically those included in the 1965 Census. He pointed out that since March 2012, when a mechanism for employment for Bedouns in the government sector was launched, until the end of 2013, a total of 1,265 Bedouns have benefited from the program and they are now working in eight ministries. He added the CSRSIR has also coordinated with Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Cooperative Societies Union on the employment of Bedouns. According to Al-Othman, the CSRSIR submitted three lists of those eligible for citizenship to the Cabinet in January, April and September 2012. This is in addition to another list of 504 Bedouns submitted in September 2013. He asserted the agency continues to investigate and check files of those deemed qualified for citizenship in accordance with the rules and regulations.

He said the agency provided a package of services to 5,640 Bedouns who were asked to correct their status until the end of 2013. He revealed an office was opened in Mubarak Al-Kabeer for this purpose and its functions include granting of five-year residency permits to those who hold Article 24 visa (self-sponsorship), service card, free education and health insurance, ration card, exception from the salary certificate condition in obtaining a driving license, and civil ID for employment in the government sector.
Asked about the draft bills submitted to the Parliament on the naturalization of a certain number of Bedouns, Al-Othman asserted this is under the jurisdiction of the executive and legislative authorities, not the agency. He said the choice of naturalization is still on the agenda as one of many ways to solve this issue; indicating 16,753 citizenship applicants were naturalized within a period of 21 years — from 1991 until the end of 2012.

Al-Othman disclosed those who corrected their status from 1986, when the first ministerial committee for addressing Bedoun status was formed, until the end of 2013 totaled 87,276. This figure includes 58,770 individuals who corrected their status to Saudi nationality and 11,958 to Iraqi nationality. He said 7,879 persons switched to Syria; 1,856 to Iran; 520 to Jordan; 450 to Yemen and 5,846 to other countries. He added 160,000 illegal residents left the country in the last 23 years; majority of whom did so during the Iraqi invasion and liberation period, indicating the number dropped from 220,000 in 1990 before the invasion to 116,000 in March 1992 after the liberation.

In another development, the Women and Family Affairs Committee has agreed to complete the Children Act and address discrimination against women in housing and naturalization cases. Committee Chairman MP Saleh Ashour revealed there has been an agreement with representatives of organizations concerned with women issues to ensure that women are treated fairly in terms of legal and social rights. He then congratulated women on the occasion of International Women’s Day; hoping everyone lives in a society free of discrimination against women. He said the panel also agreed to prepare a special bill for children, since Kuwait is the only country in the region without a law on the protection of children.

On another issue, Head of the Housing Committee MP Faisal Al-Kandari lamented the housing crisis reflects the relationship of the citizen with his country, admitting he fears the possibility that this may lead to a defect in social security. He attributed the housing problem to the absence of a law on punishing officials who fail in this regard. He also stressed the need to hold the entire executive authority responsible.

Commenting on the issue, former MP Mubarak Al-Duwailah has accused the government of failure to address the housing crisis. He claimed the government does not want a solution, while the National Assembly is considered a major obstacle to resolving the issue. He pointed out that providing land is also a big problem which is linked with the monopoly over State-owned plots. In the meantime, the national authority for consumer protection bill was approved by the Financial Committee Sunday; in addition to some amendments to the laws on family and defaulters funds. Rapporteur of the committee MP Mohammed Al-Jabri confirmed the attendance of the head of Kuwait Central Bank and other officials to the meeting.

The MP clarified the proposed establishment of a national authority for consumer protection is a very important bill; indicating it includes 38 articles covering food safety standards and penalties. He also stressed the significance of the amendments to the family and defaulter funds to address problems related to their implementation. 
Furthermore, the Public Funds Protection Committee discussed Sunday the Jaber Bridge project with representatives of the State Audit Bureau (SAB) and the Ministry of Electricity. Committee Head MP Jamal Al-Omar disclosed the committee submitted a series of questions to the Ministry of Public Works on the contentious points in the tender.

The Public Utilities Committee tackled the proposal on the establishment of public authorities for transportation, communication and environment. Head of the committee MP Adel Al-Kharafi revealed that after discussing the government’s report and recommendations on the communications authority bill, the committee approved it.
Regarding the public authority of environment, the MP said the committee discussed the comments of the advisors and the report will be ready within two weeks. He added the panel finalized the public authority of communications bill, which will be submitted to the Assembly; noting these three public authorities, once established, will greatly contribute to the realization of a vision to transform Kuwait into a financial hub.

Moreover, the Legislative Committee has rejected the request to lift the immunity of Communications Minister Eissa Al-Kandari in a press misdemeanor case filed against him on grounds that the case has malicious intent. However, the committee approved the motion to lift the immunity of MP Nabeel Al-Fadel due to repeated misdemeanors, awaiting its discussion in the Assembly.  MP Ali Al-Rashed submitted a number of queries to State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Al-Abdullah regarding the formation of a team to search for remains of martyrs and missing citizens during the Iraqi invasion. He wants to know if the team consists of the same leader and members since its formation until this day. He also requested for copies of instructions given to the team since its formation.

He also asked about the total number of martyrs’ remains found in Iraq since the formation of the first team to this day, and if the search for remains is limited around the Iraqi region or does it include the Kuwaiti desert and the border area as well. He wants to know if the team is based in Iraq or is there a certain period of time where the team is active in that country, and if the team is currently active or it has stopped the search. If the team stopped, he wants to know the reason and he demanded for a copy of the instruction in this regard.

By Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Ahmed Al-Naqeeb 
Arab Times Staff

By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Ahmed Al-Naqeeb

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