Fate of Foreign Workers' Children May Be Set This Week

Committee recommends granting permanent resident status to children living in Israel for more than 5 years, came to Israel before age 13, and who are in the school system.

An interministerial committee is set to recommend this week that Interior Minister Eli Yishai grant permanent resident status to children of foreign workers who have been living in Israel for more than five years, who came to Israel before the age of 13, and who are in the school system.

The committee's recommendation, which was in preparation for a year, will affect 1,200 families of foreign workers.

The committee, whose members are from the Interior Ministry as well as the ministries of justice, education, and social affairs, has made clear that it is recommending the extension of permanent-resident status as a one-time, humanitarian measure.

The committee is to meet this week for a final vote on its proposal, the Population Administration said. The recommendation will then be submitted to Yishai. If he approves it, he will submit it to the cabinet for a vote. If the recommendation is not accepted, the children in question face deportation at the end of the school year, in keeping with a decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"I really hope the decision will not be what I heard, because if it is, we are in danger," Jenna, who is from the Philippines, told Haaretz late last night. She was whispering so as not to wake her daughter Nicole, 3. "Nicole is in preschool and has many Israeli friends who I would not want her to leave. I am here for seven years and she doesn't know the language and has nowhere else. This is home," Jenna said.

Representatives for Israeli Children, which is leading the campaign to grant Israeli citizenship to the children of foreign nationals working in the country, said they welcomed the recommendation but would keep up the pressure until a final decision is made. The organization plans to hold a rally outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on Tuesday night under the slogan "We Have No Other Country." Musicians scheduled to perform at the event include Miri Mesika, Dudu Tassa and Maya Rotman.

"We call on Interior Minister Eli Yishai and the government of Israel to accept the committee's recommendations and to go even further and grant [legal] status to all children from the age of 3 who are in the education system," Rotem Ilan, the founder of Israeli Children, said.

The Hotline for Migrant Workers also said it hopes the committee will decide to grant legal status to children below the age of 5.

"We hope the committee will take into consideration the years that it takes to obtain status in Israel, and will lower the threshold to below five years. It is also important to know that as long as Israel continues to import labor migrants, it must think about finding a permanent solution for the children," a Hotline activist said.

"Granting status will finally put an end to the terrible anxiety and insecurity in which these children have been living for the past year. I know these children, and I know that not only they will benefit from obtaining status; our country will also benefit from the presence of people who love the country and whose greatest dream is to be part of it and contribute to it," Ilan said.