Kuwait lifts decades-long ban on Palestinian workers

Palestinian passport holders to be treated like all other Arab nationalities in Kuwait

Kuwait’s interior ministry has given the green light to recruiting teachers holding Palestinian passport, saying that they could live and work in the country like all other Arab nationals under its residency laws.

The education ministry last year said that it was planning to recruit 400 teachers from Palestine, but the move needed the approval of the security authorities, especially regarding the validity of the Palestinian passport.

In October the interior minister then, Shaikh Mohammad Al Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah, said the Palestinian National Authority passport was officially recognised by the State of Kuwait.

On Sunday, the education ministry was told that Palestinian teachers could be recruited to work in Kuwait.

“Following the decision by the Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister last October to treat Palestinians holding Palestinian passports like all other Arab residents holding Arab passports and to allow them to bring their wives and children into the country, there is no objection to the Ministry of Education recruiting Palestinians in accordance with your wishes and needs and under the laws governing the residency of foreigners in the country,” the interior ministry said in its letter, Kuwaiti daily Al Rai reported on Monday.

In April, the education ministry said that it would be recruiting hundreds of Palestinians to teach Mathematics and science in its schools. The teachers would be hired from Palestine or locally from the Palestinian community in Kuwait.

However, as the education ministry announced its decision to end the hiatus, the Kuwaiti interior ministry said that the Palestinian passport was not enough to grant them the residence permit that will allow them to stay and work in the country.

The decision put an end to a decades long ban on Palestinian recruitment in Kuwait that followed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussain.

Iraqi military forces invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, prompting the United Nations Security Council to pass Resolution 660 condemning the invasion.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) hailed Saddam as a hero who publicly defied the Middle East policy of the United States and threatened to wipe out Israel, in the mould of Egypt’s president Jamal Abdul Nasser.

A deceptive announcement by Saddam that he would withdraw from Kuwait if Israel pulled out of the occupied Arab territories was cheered by Palestinians who openly supported him against the coalition forces.

Kuwaitis felt betrayed by the Palestinian pro-Saddam attitudes and following its liberation in February 1991, Kuwait cut off ties with the PLO, froze its financial backing and expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the country.

The wound in bilateral relations started to heal only 14 years later after Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President, apologised in December 2004 for the Palestinian position in 1990 towards the Iraqi invasion.

“We apologise to Kuwait and the Kuwaiti people for what we did,” Mahmoud Abbas told reporters after arriving in the state on the first visit to Kuwait by a senior Palestinian since relations were suspended.

Relations have since evolved and Kuwait has announced multi-million dollar donations to Palestinians and contributed millions to projects supporting Palestinian development.

The Palestinian embassy in Kuwait was reopened in 2013.