By Habib Toumi, Bureau ChiefPublished: December 02, 2008, 23:25
Manama: Bahrain has granted nationality to 7,012 people in the last five years, the interior minister has said, denying claims of mass naturalisation.
People of Asian origin topped the list with 3,599 cases, followed by 2,240 Arabs, 1,095 Gulf nationals and 78 from other countries, according to the figures provided by Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa in his reply to a question about the status of naturalisation in
"The cases include the children born to Bahraini mothers and foreign fathers, foreign women married to Bahraini men, people who were born in Bahrain, people who belong to Bahraini families, as well as humanitarian and social instances," Shaikh Rashid said. "There was no discrimination whatsoever against any sect, creed, colour or past nationality in the naturalisation process. We do have an honourable human rights record in the granting of the Bahraini citizenship and we fully respect all international covenants and treaties on this regard."
Violation of rights
But the minister said that he could not divulge the names of the newly-naturalised Bahrainis on the grounds that it would be a violation of their personal rights.
Al Wefaq, the largest parliamentary bloc, has been campaigning for imposing a limit on naturalisation cases, amid claims made by the opposition that Bahraini authorities have been using the process as a political tool to alter the country's demography and to win supporters mainly during the elections.
However, the government has repeatedly denied the claims, insisting that the granting of Bahraini nationality was governed by strict rules.
"We have set up a dedicated directorate to oversee the naturalisation process. Its tasks include screening the applications, running security checks, meeting the applicants and informing the royal court," Shaikh Rashid said.
Arabs must spend at least 15 years in Bahrain before they can apply for the citizenship, non-Arabs have to have been in the country for 25 years. Foreigners make up less than half of the 1,046,000 people who live in Bahrain, most of them are construction workers from India and Bangladesh, on short contracts