Thousands gathered for a demonstration in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art yesterday to protest the anticipated deportation of some children of migrant workers.
In a rally held under the banner "I have no other country," organizers launched a last-ditch effort to encourage the government to show more flexibility in granting permanent resident status to a greater number of migrant workers' children.
An inter-ministerial panel is expected to issue its recommendations on the matter to Interior Minister Eli Yishai later this week. The committee proposes that the state adopt criteria according to which it grant permanent resident status to children living in Israel for more than five years, and to children who arrived in Israel before the age of 13. In addition, the panel will recommend that children currently enrolled in the state school system also be granted resident status.
Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman appeared at the rally alongside Ilan, an 8-year-old boy who was born to migrant workers from Colombia. "The prime minister needs to decide on the matter irrespective of the committee's recommendations," Braverman said. "I call on Benjamin Netanyahu to look these children in the eye and grant them permanent [resident] status."
"Israel does not expel a child, period," said journalist Guy Maroz, who hosted the rally. "Never, not 10 [children], not 100 and not 200."
Maroz then directed his statements at the interior minister. "Eli Yishai, sending these children from here is to send them into exile," he said. "Do you remember what exile is?"
During the protest, those in attendance jeered at the mere mention of Yishai's name. Among the speakers were MKs Shaul Mofaz, Dov Khenin and Nitzan Horowitz. Singers Keren Peles, Shlomo Gronich and Maya Rotman were on hand to perform.
Nell, a Filipina migrant worker and mother to 5-year-old Erica, arrived in Israel seven years ago. She attends every demonstration in hope of receiving good news. "I've been in Israel for years," she said. "Erica does not know any other place. This is our home, and here is where we want to stay. We don't want to hide every time we see an immigration inspector."
Rotem Ilan, the founder of Israeli Children, the group that jointly staged the rally with UNICEF Israel, said she was "frightened at the xenophobia that has taken hold in our country."
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