child of foreign workers
A child of foreign workers waiting for her ID card in February 2012. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Authorities must soon decide the fate of dozens of children of foreign workers who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. Now that their parents are slated for deportation, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and welfare authorities face a dilemma: Deport the children, sending them back to their home countries with their abusive parents - or keep them in their more nurturing frameworks in Israel by granting their parents residency status for which they don't qualify.

In the Tel Aviv area alone, some 60 children of illegal foreign workers are currently in residential facilities or with foster families, after welfare officials removed them from home because of abuse and neglect.

Based on the cabinet decision from August 2010 that set criteria for granting residency to illegal workers' children and their parents, most of these children will have to be deported. Thus, they will not only have to deal with expulsion from Israel, but with returning to a home that poses a risk to their safety.

Similarly, there are 15 children from South Sudan in out-of-home arrangements. Since the government maintains that the newly independent South Sudan is no longer a dangerous place to live, all asylum-seekers from that country must leave Israel by April or they, too, will be deported. These children, then, will also be put at risk.

Complicating matters still further is the fact that two foreign worker children currently living with foster families have asked for resident status under the cabinet criteria. If residency is granted, it will not automatically cover their parents, since they are not living at home. But expelling biological parents without their minor children is legally problematic and probably impossible because they are still their children's legal guardians.

The final decision on the matter will apparently rest with Yishai, who can consider individual cases among the South Sudanese, or influence the exceptions committee which handles requests for permanent status according to the cabinet criteria.

"This is a very difficult situation and we are indeed faced with a big dilemma," said Tamar Schwartz of Mesila, the aid and information center for foreign workers.

"On the one hand, you cannot expel a parent without his child; that constitutes kidnapping," she said. "On the other hand, to return children to parents who neglect or abuse them so that you can expel them is very problematic.

"But there's a third side, and I can understand the Interior Ministry: Giving a 'prize' of permanent status to an abusive parent just so his child can stay in Israel is also very problematic, because it is liable to transmit the message that abuse pays," she said.

National Council for the Child director Dr. Yitzhak Kadman concurred.

"The ramifications of sending a child back to a family that just yesterday [the authorities] decided put the child at risk must be taken into account," he said.

The Social Affairs Ministry said, "This matter relates to exceptional cases, and these types of cases are dealt with by the Interior Ministry's exceptions committees, which examine each case individually."

The Tel Aviv Municipality said, "the continuing residence of children in foster families will be examined on an individual basis and will be decided solely in accordance with their family situation, even if the children have no legal status in Israel."

on their fate. Authorities must decide whether Officials will soon face yet another dilemma relating to the children of foreign workers: What to do with dozens of children who have been removed from home because of abuse or neglect and whose abusive parents are slated for deportation.

The welfare authorities and Interior Minister Eli Yishai will have to decide whether to remove the children from their more nurturing arrangements here in Israel and send them back to their home countries with their abusive parents; or grant those parents residency status --although they don't qualify for it -- so that their children can remain in their current frameworks.