Tue 18 Nov 2014
In a startling report last week, Aljazeera America unveiled the Kuwaiti government’s ingenious solution for dealing with its undocumented residents. Why couldn’t the US do something similar? Of course, we’d have to figure out how to do it on the cheap; Kuwait is the fifth richest country in the world per person while the United States is only tenth.
Here’s how reporter and opinion editor Atossa Araxia Abrahamian explained the scheme. “The oil-rich gulf state of Kuwait has struggled for years with a demographic problem: More than 100,000 of its residents are legally stateless, and the country refuses to recognize them as its own, saying they entered the country illegally.”
The Bidoon, as they’re called, “come from a range of economic backgrounds — some Bidoon live in poverty while others…. live in tony houses.” Many are descended from desert nomads. What they share is being routinely denied basic documentation such as birth, death, and marriage certificates supposedly because the Bidoons are “illegal residents.”
This, in turn, makes it almost impossible for them to get social services and passports.
But now, “a Kuwaiti minister has told a local paper that within a month, Kuwait’s Bidoon… would be eligible to gain citizenship — not of Kuwait but of the Comoros Islands,” Aljazerra’s Abrahamian reported. Never heard of the Comoros? Take a look.
The Comoros Islands, a tiny archipelago in the Indian Ocean, lie 185 miles east of Mozambique. With a land area of only 785 square miles, the former French colony is one of the smallest countries on earth. Its population is approximately 798,000. Kuwait isn’t all that big itself — 9,880 square miles (the equivalent of 83 by 83 miles) — with a population of 4 million.
Kuwaiti’s interior minister has revealed that in less than a month, the government of his desert state will help its Bidoon register for “economic citizenship” in the lush, tropical Comoros Islands, Aljazeera reported. “This would legalize their immigration status in Kuwait and allow them to qualify for health and education benefits,” reporter Abrahamian explained.
However, she added, “the citizenship could also put them at risk of deportation. While stateless people are difficult for countries to get rid of — their lack of documentation actually protects them from being sent away — foreign citizens can be kicked out at a moment’s notice.”
The Islamic Human Rights Commission has called Kuwait’s scheme “a cynical ploy to relieve itself of its own obligations to the Bidoon.” The Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa program has called it “shocking.” A New York-based Bidoon activist quipped, “I went to bed in West Asia and woke up east African. These are the miracles of Arab regimes.”
And what do the Comoros Islands get out of the deal? Roughly five years ago, the impoverished islands began selling citizenships and passports to stateless residents of the United Arab Emirates and so far have made $200 million from the deal, which is a lot when you’re short of cash.
“In return for the passports [bought for Kuwait’s Bidoons], Comoros will…. receive direct investment from the Kuwaiti government, which promised to build schools and charities on the islands,” Kuwait’s interior minister said.
“Many Bidoon see reason to accept the offer, reasoning that any citizenship — even if it’s from a country most people haven’t heard of, let alone one they can find on a map — is better than nothing, especially when it appears to come with actual benefits,” Aljazeera commented.
One Bidoon worker in Kuwait was quoted as joking that “Comoros looked nice and that they would soon be jetting away to the islands.”
With that thought in mind, why doesn’t our government merely buy citizenship in some Caribbean island-nation for our undocumented immigrants arriving from Mexico and Central America? It would be far cheaper and safer than the current battle on our southern border.
And what’s more, none of these immigrants would ever be obliged to visit the Caribbean although how could they resist such entreaties as: “Aruba, Jamaica — ooo I wanna take you — Bermuda, Bahama — come on pretty mama — Key Largo, Montego — baby why don’t we go — Jamaica. Off the Florida Keys, there’s a place called Kokomo….”
The names alone are enough to make one want to be a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, or St. Lucia.