Yuliana Iliyana, 31, a mother and Russian citizen living in Jerusalem, was told by the Population and Immigration Authority this week that she and her Israeli-born son Daniel, 5, have one month to leave the country. That was the decision by the authority’s head, Shlomo Mor Yosef, at the recommendation of the humanitarian affairs committee, two and a half years after Iliyana applied again for legal status in the country.
Daniel has special needs. According to his preschool, his speech is delayed, and he has a serious attention deficit. He needs continuity and consistency in therapy. His father is an Israeli whom Iliyana married and quickly divorced because he was violent. He left Israel last year, some 18 months after she applied for status. Before that, he had contact with the son but since then, Iliyana has brought up Daniel on her own.
Among his grounds for rejecting her petition for status, Mor Yosef notes that the father isn’t in touch with the son. His young age voids integration into Israeli society as grounds; he could adjust to his mother’s country of birth. Iliyana herself has stronger affiliation with overseas than with Israel; and showed no evidence that she isn’t in touch with her family in Russia.
Speaking to Haaretz, Mor Yosef said the child is not being “expelled,” but emphasized that “a child does not confer status on his parents.”
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Iliyana says she has nowhere to go and the boy speaks Hebrew. In Russia, Daniel will always be different because of his Israeli-Jewish origin and special needs, Iliyana says: “He will be walked over. He will be humiliated.”
The Interior Ministry is supposed to be guided first and foremost by the good of the child, and so it is breaking its own rules, says Tal Cohen Tabibi, a legal-aid lawyer with the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, which is representing Iliyana.
“The boy is an Israeli citizen and has the basic right to manifest his citizenship by living in his country. He was born here and was educated in the Israeli education system his whole life, and needs medical and emotional treatment that he already began getting in Israel. There is no question that his greater good, as experts say too, is to continue to be treated in Israel.”
At age 5, there is no reason to force cultural exile on the child, she added.
Iliyana herself hails from a dysfunctional family in Siberia. She grew up with her grandmother and moved to Moscow to study at university. Working at a company, she met an Israeli through a dating site and after three months of correspondence and a one-week visit to Israel, he proposed marriage, and she accepted. They were wed a month later in Cyprus. She was already pregnant. Their relationship did not last long.
His work did not go well and under pressure from him and her mother, Iliyana traveled to Russia in her fifth month of pregnancy, hoping to find work. She expected to give birth there, but realized that her bridges had been burned. Six weeks later she returned to her husband in Israel, and their relationship deteriorated even more. She claims he pushed her, causing her to hit her head, and threatened that if she left him, he would take the child or cause her expulsion with the child.
During his first year, Iliyana went to Russia twice, seeking work and shelter, but nothing came of it. In Israel she left her husband and went from one rented room to another, working in odd cleaning jobs.
In June 2015, the couple advised the Interior Ministry that they had parted ways. Iliyana petitioned for status on humanitarian grounds. Some 18 months later, the request was rejected and her Israeli ID card was withdrawn without prior notice. Thus she lost all legal status in the country.
In February 2016 she reapplied to the humanitarian committee. As the answer was delayed over two and a half years, the appeals court ordered that she be given temporary residency status until a decision could be reached. She continues to clean homes and lives with the boy in a cellar, but says the preschool helps her in every way possible.
The immigration authority says she only applied for legal status on humanitarian grounds in 2017. But when shown that Iliyana’s lawyer had petitioned the appellate court several times in 2016 because of the authority’s delay in answering, the authority stated that when a person writes a letter asking something, that is not tantamount to submitting a request. Submission of requests is accompanied by documentation, an interview and other steps, it stated.