Nine days. That's how long Charlie Eskay was given to pack up 26 years of life in Israel before being deported to his native Ghana.
The Interior Ministry has refused Eskay's request to renew his resident status in Israel, and unless it accedes in the next two days, the 49-year-old will be forced to leave his home and daughter behind.
Eskay's story is fit for a soap opera. He came to Israel in 1983 on a student visa, crossing the border from Alexandria, Egypt into Eilat to study marine biology.
He took on a number of temporary jobs to support himself and in the meanwhile met an Israeli woman, with whom he fell in love. Together they parented a daughter, who is now 22.
When their daughter was two years old, Eskay's partner left him to move to central Israel. Although she took their child with her, Eskay remained a committed father, staying in Israel to be close to her.
"I traveled the whole world," Eskay told Haaretz in fluent Hebrew. "One of the reasons I stayed in Israel is for [my daughter]. I am a responsible person. I have had a hard life. I didn't want to be somebody who brings a child into the world only to abandon her. And I loved Israel, too."
After finishing her high school studies in the center, Eskay's daughter moved to Eilat to live with him before beginning her compulsory service in the Israel Defense Forces.
Not long after, immigration authorities decided that Eskay was to be deported as his student visa was no longer valid.
He was taken to a detention facility to await expulsion, and while his lawyers argued that he should be permitted to remain in Israel for his daughter, an additional blow was struck: It turned out his daughter was not biologically his own.
Despite the results of the paternity test, Eskay and his daughter petitioned the courts and eventually, their appeal reached the Supreme Court.
In January 2007, Eskay's attorney was notified that the Interior Ministry had agreed to extend his status in Israel for another two years.
Eskay's daughter, who was serving on an IDF base in the south at that time, continued to return home to her father on the weekends.
Two years ago, she moved back to the center of the country after her mother's husband died and her little brother fell severely ill. She now lives with relatives in the center, but remains in close contact with her father.
"Dad supports me financially and emotionally and we see each other every month or two, when he comes to the center," she told Haaretz. She said that Eskay also supports her mother and even relatives to whom he is not related.
Their situation was not ideal, but it was family. Now, following the Interior Ministry's latest decision, that reality is coming to an end.
Eskay's lawyer has tried appealing the ministry's decision, including in his petition statements from Eilat residents testifying to his client's financial independence, his positive attitude and his loyalty.
Eskay's daughter is still worried that her father will be deported, despite their last-ditch efforts to see his visa renewed. "It's exhausting. This is a crazy country. What does this mean? That when I get married I won't have a father? That my kids won't have a grandfather? The law may be the law, but people have feelings, too."
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that its initial decision to renew Eskay's visa had been based on his paternity, a fact it says has now changed.
"Renewal of Mr. Eskay's residency visa was made on the basis of a number of circumstances, primarily his relationship with his daughter, who in actuality, is not his biological daughter," said the statement.
"An examination following his present request has found that he in fact has no contact with his daughter and that, in addition to that, his whole family lives in Ghana. In light of this, it has been decided that he must leave Israel and return home."
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