UAE’s Double-Standard on Citizenship Rights

Noted!

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently announced a plan to extend citizenship opportunities to highly-educated, skilled, or wealthy foreign nationals and their families. Unfortunately, the country’s citizenship law still leaves out other groups, including children born to Emirati women and foreign fathers, and stateless people.

Increasing pathways to citizenship is good investment for a country whose population consists of nearly 90 percent foreign nationals, most of whom are part of the UAE’s low-paid workforce. However, the government’s new citizenship mechanism is designed to attract an elite set of foreign nationals. It allows for UAE officials to nominate foreign nationals for citizenship using criteria mostly related to academic, entrepreneurial, or financial status.

People in the UAE have taken to social media to pointpoint out the glaring hypocrisy of the new plan and demandcitizenship for all children of Emirati mothers.

Emirati women continue to face discrimination in passing nationality to their children compared to Emirati men. The UAE’s nationality law provides that children of Emirati men are automatically entitled to UAE citizenship; however, children born to Emirati mothers and foreign fathers are not.

Emirati mothers can apply for citizenship for their children provided their child has lived in the UAE for six years. However, according to some mothers, the application process can be confusing and it can sometimes take yearsto receive a response. When the child turns 18, they can apply themselves. But even then, they can wait years with no answer.

Others on social media have raised the plight of the country’s bidun (stateless) population, who, without UAE citizenship, face serious obstacles to accessing health care, employment, and university scholarships. Children of stateless couples have no path to citizenship, regardless of how long their parents have lived in the UAE. Many bidun individuals in the UAE trace their origins to nomadic communities  or immigrants living there before the country was formed in 1971, and who failed to register for nationality at the time.

The UAE is free to attract foreign investment into the country by offering the prospect of Emirati citizenship, but it should also end gross discrimination regarding citizenship for children of Emirati women and stateless groups. It is time to recognize them as Emirati nationals on an equal basis.

Source: UAE’s Double-Standard on Citizenship Rights

Kuwait: Authorities crackdown on protesters demanding citizenship rights

Ongoing story:

The Kuwaiti authorities have arbitrarily arrested more than a dozen protesters in recent days, including prominent human rights defender Abdulhakim al-Fadhli and other activists, in a crackdown on peaceful protestors demanding greater rights for the stateless group known as Bidun [short for “without citizenship”]. Twelve protesters remained in custody, Amnesty International said.

The arrests took place between 11 and 14 July following demonstrations held last week by members of the Bidun group, who had gathered in Freedom Square in Tayma, in the Governorate of Jahra, and Al Erada Square, in Kuwait City, after Ayed Hamad Moudath, 20, committed suicide after reportedly being unable to obtain official documents and eventually losing his job.

“These arbitrary arrests primarily targeting peaceful protesters, activists and human rights defenders in Kuwait are not only unlawful, but are only set to exacerbate an already tense situation brought to the fore by the young man’s suicide. By continuing to deny the Bidun citizenship, the authorities are denying these long-term residents a range of basic rights, including their right to health, education and work, which in effect exclude them from being part and parcel of and contributing to a vibrant Kuwaiti society,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Research.

“This has been a long-standing issue since Kuwait’s independence in 1961. It is high time the authorities address it in a meaningful and sustainable manner by ensuring that all Biduns have access to an independent, prompt and fair process when applying for citizenship.”

Two of the detained protesters Nawaf al-Badr and Mohamad al-Anzi, were referred to prosecutors on 14 July and charged with “national security offences”. Their detention has been extended for 21 days.

Abdulhakim al-Fadhli and nine others were referred to prosecutors on 15 July and face a range of charges including participation in unlicensed protests, misuse of communication equipment, spreading false news, and other national security offences. Others were summoned and questioned but not arrested.

“We call on the Kuwaiti authorities to immediately lift the unlawful restriction of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and to release the protesters or charge them with a recognizable criminal offence,” Lynn Maalouf said.

Background

More than 100,000 Bidun people are long-term residents of Kuwait, with most of them born there and belonging to families who have lived there for generations.

Despite government reforms announced in 2015, the Bidun community face severe restrictions on their ability to access documentation, employment, health care, education and state support enjoyed by Kuwaiti citizens.

In 2018, the minister of education rejected a parliamentary proposal to register children of Bidun in public schools. In the past, when Bidun people have protested to demand their rights, they have often faced repression.

Source: Kuwait: Authorities crackdown on protesters demanding citizenship rights

The controversial plan to give Kuwait’s stateless people citizenship of a tiny, poor African island – The Washington Post

Another illustration of some of the unsavoury aspects of Gulf countries:

Comoros, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, is one of the smallest countries in Africa. Excluding the contested island of Mayotte, the Comoros archipelago covers about 640 square miles, roughly half the size of Rhode Island. Fewer than a million people live on the islands, made up of a variety of ethnicities that reflect the nation’s location at a historical crossroads.

But if a new plan gets the go-ahead, Comoros may gain significantly more citizens — by offering thousands, if not many more, of stateless people from Kuwait “economic citizenship.”

And many experts are not so sure this is a good thing.

These stateless people are mostly from Kuwait’s Bidun population, which numbers about 100,000. Almost by definition — their name comes from the Arabic phrase “bidun jinsiya” or “without nationality” — they do not have citizenship and are considered illegal immigrants. Some are the descendants of nomadic tribes who never asked for citizenship when Kuwait became independent in 1961. Others are Arabs who joined the Kuwaiti army in the 1970s and ’80s but never gained citizenship. Others have been refused citizenship for political reasons.

The Bidun form a sizable minority in Kuwait, where the total citizenship is about 1.5 million. They are often disenfranchised, having long been refused the generous state benefits that Kuwait awards to its citizens. Kuwait, perhaps fearful of what an angry Bidun minority may do, offered some limited reforms in 2011: allowing Biduns to claim health care and education, for example, and register their births, marriages and deaths. But Human Rights Watch noted at the time, many Biduns complained that bureaucratic processes meant it was difficult to get these benefits. And there remained no path to citizenship.

The government announced this would change in 2014 — but there was a catch. The citizenship on offer wasn’t going to be Kuwaiti. Instead, Sheikh Mazen Al-Jarah Al-Sabah, assistant undersecretary for citizenship and passports affairs in Kuwait’s Interior Ministry, revealed in an interview that the government was negotiating with a foreign country that would be willing to offer the Biduns citizenship in exchange for economic benefits. Later that year, the government confirmed Comoros was the country in question, although no officials from Comoros commented.

It was only this week that Comoros finally ended speculation and confirmed that it was willing to accept a deal. “Yes, it is something we are ready to do if officially requested by the Kuwaiti government,” Comorian External Affairs Minister Abdul Karim Mohammad, on a visit to Kuwait, told a Kuwaiti newspaper. Although the details have not been announced, it looks as if the plan is gathering steam.

Why would someone living in Kuwait want citizenship of a small island off the coast of Mozambique? There are some cultural links here — Comoros is largely Sunni Muslim, and it is a member of the Arab League — but the deal largely comes down to economic factors. Kuwait, bolstered by its oil industry, has a gross domestic product per capita of $43,500. Despite its idyllic natural beauty, Comoros’ GDP per capita is just more than $810; about 18 percent of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day. The country’s small economy has been strongly hindered by political instability. Since gaining independence from France in 1975, there have been more than 20 coups and secession attempts for which it gained an unfortunate nickname the “coup-coup islands.”

Source: The controversial plan to give Kuwait’s stateless people citizenship of a tiny, poor African island – The Washington Post