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The BBC's Frank Gardner
"Unlike the 1.5 million expatriate guest workers, the Bedoun look and act like Kuwaitis."
 real 28k

Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Deadline for Kuwait's stateless
Kuwait city
Kuwait authorities have not said what the fate of the Bidoon wil be
In Kuwait, 100,000 people who are officially stateless have been given a deadline to register with the authorities to have any chance of gaining citizenship.

The Bidoon, the word means "without" in Arabic, are people who have no documents to prove their nationality, and consequently have no rights of citizenship.

This is creating a climate of terror for those who are living with this uncertainty

Clarissa Bencomo, Human Rights Watch
Many of the Bidoon come from Iraqi or Iranian descent, but have been settled in Kuwait for generations. They face prosecution of deportation if they do not register by the end of Tuesday.

The BBC Middle East correspondent, Frank Gardner, reporting from Kuwait says that about one-third of the Bidoon are likely to be granted citizenship, but the rest are put in great difficulty by the deadline for registration.

Kuwait population facts
Total: 2.4 million
800,000 Kuwaiti citizens
1.5 guest workers
100,000 Bidoon
Unlike the 1.5 million expatriate guest workers, the Bidoon are culturally indistinguishable from ordinary Kuwaitis. However, they have been given none of the benefits enjoyed by their Kuwaiti counterparts, such as government employment and free education.

The Director of the UN Commission for Refugees office in Kuwait, Martin Loftus, told the BBC he was concerned at the threat. He said issuing deadlines like this would not solve the problem.

Human rights worries

A spokeswoman for the United States-based campaigning group, Human Rights Watch, says confusion surrounds the deadline and the fate of those who are not granted citizenship.

"Are they going to be allowed to stay in Kuwait? Are they going to be deported? Where are they going to be deported to?" Clarissa Bencomo asks.

"The government really is not answering any of these questions and this is creating a climate of terror for those who are living with this uncertainty."

The problem of statelessness is generally increasing in part because people worldwide are much more mobile due to the movement of migrant workers and refugees.

Human rights groups are campaigning for a tightening of international human rights laws to offer some rights to those who find themselves stateless.

"We would like to see states acknowledge their individual responsibilities for statelessness. What you see now is a sort of free-for-all where states say it is not my problem, it is someone else's problem," Ms Bencomo said.

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