MIDDLE EAST

Kuwait to allow 'stateless people' to serve in army

KUWAIT TO ALLOW STATELESS PEOPLE TO SERVE IN ARMY

Kuwait's National Assembly (parliament) on Tuesday approved the second reading of a draft legislation that would, if passed, allow "stateless people" -- i.e., residents of Kuwait who do not have citizenship -- to serve in the army.

The reading was approved by a vote of 52 to 5 with one lawmaker abstaining, according to the official KUNA news agency.

Parliament approved a first reading of the bill last month.

In April of last year, Kuwait's chief of general staff allowed stateless people, locally known as "Bedoon", to join the country's ground and air forces.

At the time, however, Defense Minister Mohammed al-Khalid al-Sabah had said that only those stateless people whose fathers had served in the army would be allowed to join the country's armed forces.

There are roughly 96,000 stateless people in Kuwait, according to official estimates.

The Bedoon lack Kuwaiti citizenship and are viewed as illegal immigrants by the Kuwaiti authorities.

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