Thousands March in Tel Aviv Against Deportation of Migrant Children

Government plans to expel 400 children of foreign workers; Meretz MK Ilan Ghilon says 'I will provide refuge to any persecuted child.'

Thousands of people marched Saturday in Tel Aviv in protest of the government's intention to deport 400 children of migrant workers. The demonstrators carried signs criticizing Interior Minister Eli Yishai and called for him to be fired from his post.

foreign workers

Aliza Olmert, wife of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and an activist against child deportation took part in the demonstration.

"I see many activists here. We've come a long way since we started organizing," Olmert said, claiming that the slogans of the demonstrators will reach the ears of the decision-makers.

"I believe that the government will think twice and that will effect the outcome," she added.

Meretz MK Ilan Ghilon, who also attended the event, said that "I will personally invite into my own home, as always, any child in need, even if he or she is being persued by immigration authorities."

Rotem Ilan, founder of the advocacy group Israeli Children said "I believe that the amount of people that came to the demonstration proves that most of the sane and ethical public opposes the expulsion of the children."

Ilan continued, "At the same government meeting where the inhumane and cruel decision was taken, another decision was made to bring another 400 foreign workers to the country. There is no real effort to solve the immigration problem. It's high time that this government understand: the expulsion of innocent children will not solve a single problem."

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sent a personal letter to Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Friday, asking that he allow the children of illegal foreign workers to remain in Israel. The letter was received by the ministry, and it is thought that this will mark a turning point in Prime Minister Netanyahu's position on the issue.

Netanyahu added that she has brought up the matter with her husband on numerous occasions in recent months. "I want to believe that my efforts contributed in some way to the Prime Minister's decision to grant reprieve to 800 of the 1200 children," she wrote.

Earlier this week, Yishai asked the Finance Ministry to consider a plan that would provide a $1,000 grant per family to foreign workers who leave Israel on their own accord. This grant would be given to families affected by the expulsion decision and those unaffected by it who would wish to leave in the future. The finance ministry is currently studying the proposal.

In response to Yishai's offer, anti-expulsion activists opened a Facebook page offering to pay Yishai $1,000 if he and his family would leave the country.