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Comoros would take Kuwait's Bidoon in return for aid

More than 110,000 Bidoons lived in Kuwait for decades claiming the right to citizenship [AFP]

Date of publication: 16 May, 2016

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Comorian external affairs minister Abdulkarim Mohamed has been quoted saying his country is willing to enter official discussions with the Kuwaiti government over taking in thousands of stateless Bidoons.

Comoros is ready to take in thousands of stateless Bidoons denied citizenship in the Gulf state of Kuwait, newspapers reported Monday.

The African island announced it will be willing to enter official negotiations with the Kuwaiti government on the matter.

"If the issue is raised officially, we are ready to discuss it," al-Anbaa newspaper quoted Comorian external affairs minister Abdulkarim Mohamed as saying.

"It is something we are ready to do if officially requested by the Kuwaiti government," Mohamed said.

More than 110,000 Bidoons have lived in Kuwait for decades, claiming the right to citizenship in the oil-rich emirate and the generous welfare benefits that accompany it.

Reports surfaced almost two years ago over the African island's willingness to grant citizenships in return for cash, causing much controversy among rights groups.

"Kuwait's rulers have come up with a solution to the 'problem' of Bidoons, whose lack of citizenship rights despite historic ties to the country has frequently led to international criticism," Human Rights Watch said.

Reports surfaced almost two years ago over the African island's willingness to grant citizenships in return for cash, causing much controversy among rights groups
The impoverished Comoros has a population of just under 800,000 people, nearly all of them Sunni Muslims [AFP]

"Kuwait should recognise that pawning off the Bidoons population on another state will not make its obligations disappear," the group added.

But the Kuwaiti government argues only 34,000 Bidoons qualify for consideration for citizenship. The rest, it says, are economic migrants from neighbouring countries or their descendants without any solid claim.

They will not be granted citizenship but may be given permanent residence if they agreed to take Comorian economic citizenship, interior ministry assistant undersecretary major general Mazen al-Jarrah said in November 2014.

Those who accepted the offer would be given a series of incentives, including free education and health care, and the right to work, he added.

The impoverished Comoros consist of three islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of east Africa with a population of just under 800,000 people, nearly all of them Sunni Muslims.

Despite the country's distance from the Middle East and North Africa, it is a member of the Arab League as well as the African Union.

Several years ago, the Comoros offered thousands of Bidoons in the UAE citizenship in exchange for generous aid in a deal similar to the Kuwait proposal.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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