The Kuwaiti law of foreigners stay No. 17 of 1959 does not give foreigners the right of permanent stay in Kuwait without a valid visa and passport, Eman Abdullatif Al-Nasser, head of the technical office at the central committee for addressing the status of illegal residents in Kuwait, said while presenting Kuwait’s periodical report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ERD).
She added this label was given to those who enter the country by illegal means or those who fail to renew their visas because they are hiding their passports or official documents.
Al-Nasser explained that those people came to Kuwait for work, but after witnessing the advantages given by the state to citizens, concealed their passports and claimed to be indigenous people in order to gain the Kuwaiti nationality.
She pointed out that the number of illegal residents before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 amounted to 220,000, but this figure dropped to 117, 000 in 1992 as thousands returned voluntarily to their original countries.
Al-Nasser also refuted claims that these people are of tribal Bedouin decent (known for their constant travel across Gulf states) and that they were excluded from naturalization during the creation of the State of Kuwait.
Since the demarcation of Kuwaiti borders, urban and tribal areas that surrounded the wall of Kuwait City (at the time) were included, and Bedouin tribesmen, found in these regions, were all granted citizenship as were sea-farers within these walls.
Today, Bedouins represent the majority of the Kuwaiti population, as they have since 1952, she added.
The State of Kuwait has spared no effort to address this problem, she stressed, as two taskforces were formed to tackle this issue in 1986 and 1993.
In 1996, the government also formed the executive committee for illegal residents and assigned the Supreme Council for Planning to thoroughly study the issue and set a strategic and clear roadmap to tackle it.
Al-Nasser pointed out that the proposed roadmap stipulates sorting out illegal residents into several groups and handling each separately.
She, however, underlined that Kuwait has taken it upon itself to provide these people with free healthcare and education in addition to all other humanitarian needs.