Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2016, 14:47 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Kuwait

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Kuwait , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 26 October 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

More than 65,000 refugees were living in Kuwait in 2003, including an estimated 50,000 Palestinians, 15,000 Iraqis, and some 1,700 refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia, and other countries. Figures can only be roughly estimated, however, because Kuwait does not recognize refugees, although it tolerates the presence of some foreigners as part of its expatriate labor force. Most refugees in Kuwait are long-term residents who sought UNHCR protection only after Kuwaiti authorities refused to renew their residence permits, leaving them vulnerable to detention and deportation. In addition, there are 120,000 stateless persons known as Bidoon (literally, "without") in Kuwait, denied the rights and benefits that Kuwaiti citizens enjoy.

As the United States prepared to invade Iraq, the government of Kuwait sealed its borders to refugees, announcing that it would restrict all refugee arrivals to the 15 km wide demilitarized zone between the two countries. Kuwait established a humanitarian coordination station (HOC) with the U.S. military and USAID, to provide administrative assistance to the Coalition and contractors, and material assistance to refugees. Donations for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts in Iraq from the Kuwaiti government and private citizens totaled more than $1 billion.


During 2003, Kuwait made limited progress in addressing the long-standing issue of the stateless Bidoon. The government relaxed the 2,000-person annual cap to permit 5,500 Bidoon from three special categories (sons of female citizens married to Bidoon, those whose male relatives are citizens, and wives of citizens) to apply for citizenship. In another positive step, the government naturalized 1,600 Bidoon. Although the law allows the change of status for up to 2,000 Bidoon each year, Kuwait lowered the cap to only 600 persons in 2002.

The Ministry of Defense also approved citizenship for some 400 Bidoon who fought against Iraq during the 1991 invasion of Kuwait, shelving another proposal to naturalize posthumously those whose remains had been identified. If approved, naturalization of Bidoon killed in action would allow surviving family members to become Kuwaiti citizens.

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