At least five families of foreign workers are in danger of being deported because the Interior Ministry is demanding that they present their children's original birth certificates - which are already in the ministry's possession.
All of the families meet the criteria set by the cabinet for receiving permanent residency in Israel, but are now at risk of deportation because of this demand. Over the last few days, all have sought assistance from the Hotline for Migrant Workers, an advocacy group.
Under the cabinet's decision, illegal foreign workers must submit all necessary documents to the ministry by the end of August to avoid deportation. One such document is the child's original birth certificate, needed to prove his or her age.
But sometimes, the parents of children born in Israel do not have the original birth certificates, as they did not properly register their child at the hospital after his birth. And at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, a practice has developed over the last decade of sending the child's original birth certificate to the Interior Ministry should the new mother fail to appear at the hospital to register her newborns following the birth.
Now the ministry is demanding that the parents provide the original documents - which should already be someplace in the ministry's offices.
Moreover, the ministry has yet to issue instructions to hospitals on how to deal with foreign workers seeking to obtain official documentation for their newborns. The delay has been devastating to families that would otherwise be allowed to stay, as they have been unable to acquire the necessary documentation, and the deadline for filing their forms is approaching rapidly.
All the children who now find themselves in bureaucratic limbo live in south Tel Aviv. They include two brothers from the Philippines, age 5 and 7, whose parents owe NIS 6,700 to Sheba hospital, and another pair of brothers whose Ghanaian parents owe the hospital NIS 15,000.
Hotline workers who have been helping the migrants arrange their documentation initially accused Sheba of refusing to give the families the original birth certificates because they owe the hospital money - an allegation hospital officials indignantly denied.
Haaretz reported a month ago that Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital had refused to provide a birth certificate for a foreign worker's child due to a debt. But an agreement was eventually reached with the family, and the certificate was provided.
"This is absurd," a Hotline for Migrant Workers spokesperson said. "On one hand, the ministry is demanding original birth certificates from parents, and on the other, it isn't providing instructions to hospitals on how to handle cases in which the original documents were sent to the Interior Ministry. It's a real shame that five families meet all the criteria for receiving status, but are unable to provide this basic document because of bureaucratic difficulties."
The Interior Ministry responded that "in accordance with the cabinet decision, these families must present original birth certificates to have their applications processed ... We expect hospitals like Sheba to contact us over any problem they encounter, and certainly not to throw around baseless assertions."
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