Gulf Daily News
Bahrain, Oct 20: AN Indian family of eight, who claim to have been living here for three generations, is appealing for citizenship from the Bahraini government.
The family, which had applied for citizenship in October 2004, says that its youngest members were kicked out of school and ended up working at an early age because they don't have residency documents.
Its history dates back to the 1950s when the father of the head of the family came to Bahrain from Mangalore, Karnataka, and set up a lodging business in Manama.
The originally Christian family, which converted to Islam eight years ago, says that after several attempts to follow up on its application, the family found out that the names of its members were not listed at the Royal Court and were not given a reference number.
The father, mother and their three younger children have reportedly been staying in Bahrain without a valid residence permit since their sponsor had died a few years ago.
The elder three children do have valid visas, as they are working for various companies in Bahrain.
Father Billal, his wife Fouzia and children Mariam, aged 22, Abdulla, 21, Fathima, 20, have Indian passports.
However, Lubna, 19, Ayesha, 18, and Omar, 16, don't have any citizenship documents.
Mariam, who did not want to publish the family's last name, said that her grandfather arrived in Bahrain with her uncle. They were joined by her grandmother and father in 1963.
"My grandmother went to India in 1965, where she died, while my grandfather died here in 1975," said Mariam.
"His business closed down because there were no documents to attest that my father could inherit it.
"My father, whose name was Anthony then, had very little education and thus began working as a labourer at the Central Market.
"In 1981, he went to India to get married and came back two years later with my mother, called Theresa then."
"In 1988, the sponsor asked for a huge amount to renew the residence permit but my father couldn't afford it."
"The matter was gradually shelved and the sponsor did not bother to contact us again.
"When the sponsor died a few years later, his wife gave us back our passports."
Mariam said her brothers and sisters were facing problems because they do not have citizenship documents or a valid passport.
"The youngest two children only studied up to kindergarten and the remaining four of us went to school up to the seventh grade," she said.
"We went to the Sacred Heart School, but were kicked out because we did not have our CPR cards.
"I began working at the age of 13 at the Yateem Centre, Manama, and so did my younger brother and sister.
"My father hasn't been able to work for the past seven years because of ill-health, but he's not able to get proper treatment because he has no valid documents.
Mariam said that the family converted to Islam in 1998 after learning more about the religion.
"We are begging to the Bahraini government to shelter us and accept us as their own people as we have no where else to go."
"We want to stay here, in this wonderful paradise called Bahrain until our end."
Human rights activist and National Committee of people deprived of citizenship supervisor Sonya Taher said if a person has lived continuously in Bahrain for more than 25 years and spoke fluent Arabic, he or she were eligible for citizenship.
The General Directorate of Nationality, Passports and Residence could not be reached for comments.