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Kuwait: Abuse of Stateless Community Must End

Washington D.C. – Refugees International (RI) is calling on the government of Kuwait to cease mistreatment of its roughly 100,000 stateless residents, known as the bidoun. It also urges American, British, and United Nations diplomats in the country to directly engage the Kuwaiti government on this issue. These are two of the recommendations made in Kuwait: Bidoun Nationality Demands Can’t Be Silenced, a new RI report released today.

“The bidoun protest movement, which re-emerged last year, powerfully demonstrates this community’s desire to be treated as full and equal members of Kuwaiti society,” said RI Statelessness Program Manager Sarnata Reynolds, who visited Kuwait last month. “But the Kuwaiti government’s response to their demands has been deplorable.”

During their visit to Kuwait, RI advocates found that Kuwaiti special forces used excessive force to disperse peaceful demonstrations, including beatings, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Some protestors who were arrested told RI of grave mistreatment they received in Kuwaiti jails – from solitary confinement, to beatings and sexual abuse. Others were threatened with deportation or told that they would never be eligible for Kuwaiti citizenship. The Kuwaiti government must allow peaceful protests to resume, thoroughly investigate allegations of police brutality, and ensure that bidoun demonstrators receive fair trials.

“Appalling as it was, Kuwait’s recent crackdown against the bidoun was made worse by the utter lack of international concern or condemnation,” Ms. Reynolds said. The Embassies of the U.S. and the UK, two of Kuwait’s most important allies, have made no public statements on the issue. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), despite its mandate to protect stateless populations worldwide, has also failed in its responsibilities to the bidoun. No-one from UNHCR has had direct interaction with members of the bidoun community, nor has UNHCR spoken out against recent abuses.

“It is time for the Kuwaiti government’s impunity to end,” Ms. Reynolds added. “As the bidoun continue to demand recognition of their rights, Kuwait’s allies and the UN can no longer turn a blind eye to their plight. Their diplomatic representatives in Kuwait must raise this issue with Kuwaiti officials regularly and forcefully. Otherwise, the repression of this vulnerable community could well continue.”

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Refugees International is a Washington DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. For more information, please go to www.refugeesinternational.org.

Contact:
Dara McLeod +1 240 486 3011, dara@refugeesinternational.org
Michael Boyce +1 202 361 6131, michael@refugeesinternational.org