Some 100 people demonstrated in front of Israeli president's residence in Jerusalem on Thursday against the planned deportation of Filipina foreign workers and their children and calling for President Reuven Rivlin to intervene.
Thirty-five-year-old Margaret, who was handed a deportation order earlier this year for Friday, came out to protest with her two children, 10-year-old Laurence and four-year-old Ellie, who were both born and raised in Israel and speak only Hebrew. They were supposed to be the first family to be deported as part of immigration authorities' plan, but officials told Haaretz that no family would be deported this week.
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The deportation of 50 children and 36 parents, all from the Philippines, is set to begin on July 15 and last until the end of August.
"I've been in Israel half of my life," Margaret told Haaretz. She first worked as a caretaker for elderly patients, and now cleans houses for a living. "It's unfair that for 10 years, our children were allowed to grow up here and become Israelis in every sense of the word, and now they're being deported to a country they don't know."
According to Margaret, "All Filipinas are in hiding every day, because they fear officers would arrest them. The children are afraid to walk the streets." She adds, "So far Israel has been good to us. I'm not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me, but for my Israeli children."
Thursday's demonstration was a silent one, out of respect for Rivlin, who is mourning the death of his wife, Nechama, organizers said. Protesters were holding up signs, reading "Are you president of all children?" and "Mr. President, pardon us."
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Haaretz reported Wednesday that Rivlin had considered acting to prevent the deportations, but decided not to intervene after a Tuesday meeting with a top immigration official. During the meeting, the director general of the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority, Shlomo Mor-Yosef, told Rivlin that canceling the deportation would set a precedent that would allow other groups of foreign nationals to stay in the country.
Rivlin’s office confirmed in a statement that the meeting took place “in order to thoroughly study the issue, its meaning and implications, following many calls to intervene.” It also said that, “After looking into the details and the data, it’s been understood that any potential assistance only relates to particular cases.”
In 2006, and again in 2010, the government passed resolutions providing legal status to children born to foreign workers. The protests relate to children who, because of when they were born, were not covered by these resolutions and are subject to deportation to the Philippines, a place many of them have never visited.
The Population and Immigration Authority claimed there was no change in policy, but leaders of the Filipino community in Israel, social activists, and educators working with foreign workers' children in south Tel Aviv all said that in recent years, there were very few cases of deportation of Filipino families.