This section highlights some of the most recent statelessness related developments in Lebanon, Kuwait, and Iraq. There are also statelessness related issues in North African countries – particularly with regard to migrant communities living in these countries for protracted periods and refugees from Western Sahara. However, the most recent updates to situations are to be reported from the Gulf and Levant regions.
Iraq had seen one of the largest reductions of statelessness globally, due to reforms in nationality law and the introduction of policies allowing groups that had been denaturalised during Saddam Hussein's regime to re-acquire Iraqi nationality. However, the country still faces significant challenges. Iraq’s civil registration system is complex, and differs across different local governorates. This means that an individual who needs to register a vital event in a region not the governorate in which they are registered in, may face significant obstacles. This is particularly concerning given the large number of IDPs who have been displaced, often several times. Additionally, some regions are falling in and out of control of various non-state actors, specifically the so-called Islamic State. This has led to children being born outside of regime-controlled areas as well as a rise in children born of sexual slavery, to foreign fighters and from forced marriages. These challenges combined with discriminatory laws and procedures in the country may be putting many children at risk of statelessness. Additionally, Iraq—specifically the Kurdistan region—hosts a large number of stateless Kurd refugees from Syria. Many have—even before the Syrian conflict—sought refuge in the Kurdistan region of Iraq due to cultural and linguistic affinity. The country therefore now has to address the challenge of a new stateless population on its territory.
In Kuwait there is a reported stateless population of 93,000 persons, although civil society estimates are higher. The state had not comprehensively identified and registered all persons who should have been recognised as citizens during the post-colonial period of state formation. The unregistered population and their descendants are called the ‘Bidoon’ – which literally translates to ‘without’ as they are without nationality. Over the several decades since independence, their human rights situation became increasingly worse. In response to this in 2011, the Bidoon made headlines when many Bidoon took to the streets to demand access to rights, including the right to nationality. The government reacted—at times harshly—to these protests, including by establishing a government institute responsible for them. There have been some developments since, for example allowing members of this population to access health care and education (although implementation of these initiatives have been contested), but there has been no move towards offering them Kuwaiti citizenship. There has however, been the worrying development that thousands of Bidoon would be offered ‘economic citizenship’ of the Comoros Islands. What exactly this would mean for the Bidoon is unclear as this development is yet to be implemented, but precedents in the neighbouring UAE show that granting stateless persons the citizenship of a third country has allowed for them to be subsequently deported.
Lebanon hosts tens of thousands of individuals who have historically been left stateless, the state has gender discriminatory nationality laws, and also a complex and burdensome birth registration system . In addition to this, the sheer number of Syrian refugees has put a strain on Lebanon’s civil registration infrastructure, highlighting the problems that refugees, and also many Lebanese, face in accessing the birth registration system. However, there have been steps in the right direction to address some of these challenges. A statelessness working group now exists in Lebanon made up of key stakeholders. There have also been various initiatives to both raise awareness of the procedures —such as videos and brochures that can be disseminated among expecting families—and to engage with the government on facilitating some of the procedures.