Imagine waking one morning with no claim to any social, civic or economic status. With no official documents in hand that entitle you to a social security number, driver’s license, passport, bank account, gainful employment or school enrollment for yourself of your child, you head off to the DMV to try your luck at getting a license. After hours in line you’re told that you can have a driver’s license. But there’s a catch.
The catch is that in order to get the license, you must sign a document stating that you are a Canadian national. Signing gets you a driver’s license. However, signing also eliminates any prospect of gaining full citizenship, owning property, and enrolling your children in public schools. It also introduces untold difficulties finding work, accessing healthcare and protecting your limited rights under the law. And clearly the fact that the DMV forced you to accept Canada on your official driving document does not really make you Canadian. So upon signing, you are permanently without a country, forfeiting any claim to citizenship.
The other option is not to sign. This would mean you can never drive or would be forced to drive illegally. If you choose the latter and are caught driving without a license you could be added to a “security block” list, resulting in greater social and economic exclusion than would accompany accepting a fake assigned Canadian nationality.
What’s one to do?
The above conundrum is but one example of the dreadful dilemmas that Kuwait’s stateless people, or bidun
, confront on daily basis. My Refugees International colleague and I have just returned from Kuwait. While there, we conducted a series of interviews with stateless Kuwaitis to learn about the progress being made by the Government of Kuwait to naturalize those bidun
who meet strict criteria for citizenship, and to provide the remaining stateless with the eleven basic civil rights that were promised by the government in March of this year.
Unfortunately, it appears the government has been more focused on coercing stateless residents to accept false nationalities than in naturalizing its bidun
. While the aptly Kafkaesque titled Central System to Resolve Illegal Residents' Status provided no reliable figures on the number of bidun
naturalized this year, interviewees reported a completely stalled naturalization process and little movement on granting bidun
the civil rights they were promised.
Instead of permanently resolving the situation of the bidun
, it appears the Government of Kuwait may try to define the problem out of existence driver’s license by driver’s license.
September 27, 2011
| Tagged as: Kuwait, Middle East, Statelessness