Children of foreign workers in Israel
Children of foreign workers in Israel Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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An interministerial committee charged with determining the residency status of foreign workers held its final meeting yesterday. Committee members had already determined that the minimum period their children would have to wait to receive permanent residency status would be five years, and yesterday they addressed a number of other issues that could widen the circle of those eligible to remain in the country. One outstanding issue is whether to include foreign workers' children over 18 who are still studying in high school in the new measure.

The panel's final statement, which has yet to formulated, will be sent to the ministries of finance, education, justice, interior and social affairs. Next week it will be transferred to Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who will decide whether to adopt the moves and bring them before the cabinet for approval.

Officials privy to the meeting told Haaretz that the committee's Interior Ministry representative sought to set regulations according to which children living in Israel for at least six years would be granted such a status, while the other panel members pushed for granting status to those who had been in the country for five years.

The committee heard remarks from Aliza Olmert, an artist and social activist, and the wife of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, as well as Oded Feller of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Rotem Ilan of Representatives for Israeli Children and Amnon Sofer of the University of Haifa.

The speakers told the committee that there are currently more than 2,500 children of foreign workers in Israel under the age of 18, with the majority under 6.

Shevy Korzen, executive director of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, said, "It was important for me to stress the factor of the nature of their parents' entry into Israel. I hope the committee shows more flexibility on the matter."

'No one drops out of the sky'

Ilan told the committee that status should immediately be granted to all the children who meet residency criteria.

"As long as foreign workers continue to be brought here, there will be children here. I told them that all they're doing is putting a plaster cast on an open wound," she said.

"The committee members asked what solutions I could offer, and I said resources must be prepared for cases in which an employer stops employing or dies, and to compare Israelis' working conditions with those of foreign workers.

Maybe then they'll stop talking about foreign workers taking Israelis' jobs," she said. "They also talked about children who had come here illegally. But no one drops here out of the sky - we brought them over."