The Population and Immigration Authority yesterday began registering families of illegal residents who want their children to receive permanent residency status, in keeping with the recent cabinet decision.
Registration will continue until the end of August.
The offices opened in Be'er Sheva and Haifa for this task were almost deserted yesterday, and the large numbers expected in the Tel Aviv bureau have yet to materialize. Only 60 families arrived at the Tel Aviv office yesterday, all of whom met the criteria.
The number of applicants is expected to increase in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors added its voice to the outpouring of support for the children of foreign workers faced with deportation.
In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the group's chairman, Noach Flug wrote: "We Holocaust survivors, like other people in Israel, heard with shock and pain about your cabinet's decision to adopt criteria determined by an interministerial committee. We went through the Holocaust and witnessed the selection and separation of children from their parents. We cannot remain indifferent to pictures of unfortunate children who are not responsible for their situation."
"We are a people with a history and the Torah of Israel, which instructs us exactly how we should treat foreigners," the letter continued. "We do not accept that a Jewish government would act in such an inhumane and unconscionable way."
Children who were born in Israel and attend Israeli public schools must not be made to pay the price of solving the country's unemployment and economic problems, Flug added.
"A Jewish state with such a past as ours must not fail in terms of humanity and morality. It will inflict damage upon us as a compassionate society with a Jewish soul," he wrote.
'I miss my friends'
In Tel Aviv, the entryway to the Population and Immigration Authority's office is crowded with families waiting patiently and quietly. The only noise comes from the children, as they busy themselves by drawing on the application forms or turning them into paper airplanes.
We're waiting to go in to see people who will help us stay here, 8-year-old Janna said. "If we stay here I can go back to school in a few weeks. I miss my friends and can hardly wait," she said.
Lori and Baby went with their children yesterday to avoid the rush; the advocacy groups, they said, had recommended going in a few days. They both went in for their interview at 1 P.M., but Lori was told to return with her two other children so the clerk could identify them.
"I didn't know, otherwise I would have come with them. At least they told me I wouldn't have to wait in line when I come back," she said.
The two women seemed to be trying their best to hide both their excitement and nervousness. Baby, who has lived in Israel for 20 years, said she was looking forward to soon feeling "equal among equals."
Yesterday morning advocacy groups, including the Hotline for Migrant Workers, Kav La'oved (the Worker's Hotline for the Protection of Worker's Rights ) and Israeli Children, petitioned the High Court of Justice to extend the time given to submit documents from 21 days to no less than 90 days. They say 21 days is an unrealistic time during which to obtain all necessary documents.
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