Foreign workers and their children in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park
Foreign workers and their children in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park earlier this month. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who has been roundly criticized for his remarks about illegal foreign workers and their children, is now trying to sweeten the deal by offering a grant to those who have to leave the country.

Yishai yesterday asked the Finance Ministry to consider a financial grant to all families that leave Israel of their own accord.

The figure being considered is about $1,000 per family. The state currently only pays for plane tickets for families who leave the country of their own accord.

Sources at the Interior Ministry say they believe the treasury will approve the funding, because in the long run it will save money.

"Yishai has no interest in dramatic pictures but only in implementing the cabinet decision, and if possible, in a better way, which will satisfy all parties," an interior ministry source said.

The cabinet voted last week to extend permanent residency status to about 800 children and their families who meet certain criteria, while expelling some 400 children and their families who do not meet the criteria.

Rotem Ilan, the founder of the advocacy group Israeli Children, said a departure grant was a move in the right direction as long as people are not enticed or forced to leave.

A source in the Hotline for Migrant Workers said: "Yishai's proposals cannot be seen as an alternative to a clear immigration policy that he should adopt as soon as possible and stop giving in to the pressure from the human resource companies to issue more and more visas to labor migrants."

Meanwhile, Yishai granted a request by the parents of a 5-year-old with Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder that leaves her unable to talk, use her hands, walk or stand, to extend the stay of their daughter's Filipina caregiver, Loe Rusal, who has been invaluable to their daughter, Nika. "It was a matter of life and death for Nika," her mother, Maya Segev, said.

Yishai extended Rusal's visa for three months and will re-examine the matter at that time.

"It's my obligation, and responding to such cases is a requirement of a Jewish conscience. There is no value higher in this case than the good of the child," Yishai said.

The family had been authorized to employ a Filipina - Rusal, whose former employer had died - to replace another employee who had gone on vacation.

"When Loe came, after just two weeks we could not believe the progress Nika had made - which was much more than we'd expected. After five years in the country, Loe speaks Hebrew, and she came with a laptop and brought Nika songs that she likes. We stood with our mouths ajar that she could have such an effect, also on Nika's younger brother who is now blossoming."