Father of Israeli Soldiers Faces Deportation Despite Being Eligible for Residency

Aipokoro Molato was never informed by authorities that his children’s service in the IDF made him eligible for resident status.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
Three of Aipokoro Andailalo Molato's daughters hold a picture of him.
Three of Aipokoro Andailalo Molato's daughters hold a picture of him.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

An Ethiopian national whose ex-wife and five children are Israeli citizens is about to be deported, although he is entitled to live in Israel.

Aipokoro Andailalo Molato, 55, was told on Tuesday to prepare for immediate deportation. That despite having three children who served in the IDF, which entitles him to permanent resident status. The state has denied all the family’s requests to grant the status to which he is entitled because he is not Jewish.

Parents of a soldier who served at least 12 months in the IDF are eligible for permanent resident status, according to the Population and Migration Authority’s regulations. Three of Molato’s children have completed full military service and two of them do regular reserve duty.

Despite that, even the Be’er Sheva District Court, which heard Molato’s petition against the Interior Ministry’s Population and Migration Authority, chose not to interfere with the authority’s decision to deport him.

Molato was arrested about a month ago and has been detained in Saharonim prison since then.

The Population and Migration Authority suggested that the family reapply for permanent resident status for Molato in nine years time, when he turns 64. At that point he could be classified as “an elderly, lonely parent of an Israeli citizen.”

Molato’s family only learned this week that Molato was eligible for resident status due to the army service of his children. At no stage during the years that the family has dealt with the authority did officials mention that a soldier’s parent is entitled to resident status, his children said.

The family migrated to Israel in the ‘90s. Molato first came to Israel on a tourist visa in 2007 and again in 2010, to attend the wedding of his daughters.

He visited for his son’s wedding in March 2013, on a tourist visa valid until June 2013. Before his visa expired, he applied for permanent resident status.

At first, he asked if he was eligible to stay as an elderly parent, but was told he could not submit the forms from Israel. Then he asked to extend his visa to enable him to convert to Judaism, but his request was denied, as was his appeal. Some three months ago, the authority denied another request by Molato to grant him resident status on humanitarian grounds.

Shortly after, the Be’er Sheva court denied Molato’s petition, saying it could not find lack of good faith or plausibility in the authority’s conduct to justify the court’s intervention.

However, Judge Sarah Dovrat said she could not ignore Molato’s plight and wrote in her ruling that she hoped that in time he would be able to realize his desire to be with his children “as part of an elderly parent procedure, when this becomes appropriate for him.”

For the past two years, Molato lived with his daughter Taspensh Bideglin in Netivot. About a month ago, the immigration police arrested him and imprisoned him, telling him he was about to be deported from Israel.

This week, the family asked for the help of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progessive Judaism’s legal aid center for immigrants. That’s when they learned from the movement’s attorney Sarah Lewis that Molato was eligible for resident status due to his children’s military service.

Lewis asked the Population Authority not to deport Molato until a new application for resident status based on his children’s IDF service was submitted and considered.

“For years, the family’s requests to grant their father resident status have been denied. At no stage were they referred to the clause entitling Molato to receive resident status years ago,” she wrote.

“The Interior Ministry’s treatment of this Israeli family can only be described as negligent at best and as lacking good faith at worst,” she wrote.

Lewis told Haaretz that the family had applied for resident’s status for Molato years ago and had asked that he be allowed into Israel on several occasions. But they received either no answer or answers that had nothing to do with his eligibility.

“The state forced citizens and soldiers to choose between family and state. That’s exactly the dilemma the procedure entitling soldiers’ parents to resident status is intended to avoid. It doesn’t matter whether the state did so negligently or deliberately. The Interior Ministry must do some soul searching and perhaps refresh the regulations to its clerks,” she said.

Yesterday Molato reported to a custody court for a routine check. In the evening, following Lewis’ request, he was called to the court again and told to prepare for immediate deportation.

“The judge undermined his confidence to such an extent that he called us in despair and said this is going nowhere, I’ll return to Ethiopia,” Molato’s daughter said.

The Population and Migration Authority said Molato had remained in Israel after his visa had expired “in violation of his commitment and bail that had been deposited. Since 2013, Molato has been trying to settle in Israel in every possible way, all the while staying in Israel illegally. All his requests were denied as there was no basis to grant them. It’s not the duty of the authorities to advise an illegal alien of the best way to get a resident’s status. Lewis submitted the latest application on Tuesday, long after all the procedures had been completed and no reason was found not to deport him.”

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