Foreign Workers' Children Likely to Be Deported After School Year

No final decision made yet, but cabinet vows to carry through with expulsion of any illegal migrants.

Dana Weiler-Polak
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Dana Weiler-Polak

Some 1,200 children of foreign workers and their families will almost certainly be deported after finishing the school year, ministers indicated at Tuesday's cabinet meeting.

While no final decision has been made on the fate of the foreigners' children attending Israeli schools, the government is likely to deport them at the end of the school year.

The cabinet also authorized the Oz task force, which replaced the Immigration Police, to continue vigorously rounding up illegal workers.

"They bought time, not status," said Interior Minister Eli Yishai after the cabinet session. "I will not grant 1,200 families [residency] status."

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Social Affairs Minister Yitzhak Herzog also attended the cabinet session.

The cabinet stressed that any child born in Israel by the end of the school year will be considered illegal and will not provide his parents with any protection. They may even be deported even before the end of the school year, the cabinet statement said.

The cabinet statement said it has "not made a decision yet, but will continue the debate and decide after considering all the aspects."

Karen Tal, principal of the Bialik-Rogozin School in South Tel Aviv, where many of the foreign workers' children study, said she hoped the government would "recognize the children's right to grow and develop in Israel."

"We're like doctors fighting for their patients' life ... as educators we want to enable the children to grow in the Israeli education system, where they began," she said.

The organizations helping the migrant workers were bitterly disappointed by the cabinet's decision not to reverse its deportation policy regarding the children.

"We are sorry that the ministers adhered to the decision to deport Israeli children who have committed no crime," a worker at the Moked hotline for foreign workers said.

"At the same time they permit bringing thousands of migrant workers who are also bound to lose their legal status, due to the government's policy. We will continue fighting this unreasonable, cruel decision," she said.

A demonstration held in Jerusalem by the Israeli Children organization called to stop deporting the foreign workers. Some 50 people, most of them children, took part in the protest.

"We came to ask them not to send us to the Philippines," said 8-year-old Amam Arpon, a student at the Bialik-Rogozin school. Born in Israel, she has never been to the country Israel wants to deport her to.

"They deported father seven years ago. I'm here with mother and here we want to stay. It's home," she says.

Arpon has become accustomed to going straight home from school in recent months.

"Mother told me I must come straight home from school. She goes to work and returns immediately because she was arrested once but when they saw she was a mother she was released and since then she's afraid," she said.

Among the adults at the demonstration was actor-model Noa Maiman, who joined the campaign about five months ago.

"Her mother takes care of my grandmother, a Holocaust survivor whose life was saved by a Polish woman in the Holocaust," Maiman said.

"My grandmother asked us to take care of them and their friends because they're in danger of deportation."

Pirita, 4, was born in Israel. Her father, who came to Israel illegally, was arrested in July, when the Oz task force began operating, and has not been seen since.

"We told her he was working far away," Maiman said. "But it seems that soon we will have no choice but to tell her the truth."



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