The Justice Ministry has told the population authority to hold hearings for Israeli-born children of foreign workers aged 12 or older who face deportation, amid a raft of expulsion orders for workers whose visas were not renewed when they had children.
The ministry said in a statement that the authorities must take “the desire and welfare of the children” into account as key factors when deciding whether to deport them. Children under 12 will not receive this privilege.
When asked by Haaretz whether a child’s desire to remain in Israel might prevent his or her deportation, a ministry official said “the child’s wishes and interests will be a relevant and central consideration.” The decision to allow hearings only for children 12 and over stemmed from “the recommendation by relevant professionals in the government.”
In recent months the Population and Immigration Authority has decided to deport several foreign-worker families and their Israeli-born children who have never visited their parents' country of origin. Some do not even speak their parents’ language.
In a recent meeting chaired by deputy attorneys general Dina Zilber and Roy Schondorf, officials decided “to make certain adjustments in the procedures of the Population and Immigration Authority regarding everything connected to distancing children who are living here illegally.”
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The Justice Ministry decided that even in cases where a deportation order had been issued, a social worker would meet with the child at the Yahalom detention facility at Ben-Gurion Airport before a final decision was made. The social worker would draw up a report on each child’s situation, wishes and ramifications of a deportation.
The decision calls for the population authority to set rules for children’s hearings, while border control officials will receive training to ensure that these hearings take place.
“The training will also include the relevant obligations and instructions on this issue in international law,” the ministry wrote, adding that each child will be entitled to a hearing even if the rest of the family has already received a hearing.
The ministry detailed the new policy in response to a letter from attorney Judith Karp, a former deputy attorney general. If a hearing is not feasible, other means should be considered to obtain the child’s opinion, like passing on a letter from the child or a conversation with a social worker, the ministry said.
It said it had decided “to refine the population authority’s procedures following a number of recent public inquiries and legal proceedings.”
The authority said that this was a refining of procedures and not a change in policy. “The procedure referred to clarifies the need to hear out the minor before a decision is made in the case of any family,” it said in a statement, adding that “one of the central considerations will be the child’s interest, and what he says during the hearing will be part of that.”
The rights group Hotline for Refugees and Migrants welcomed the decision but was unhappy that hearings were only for children 12 and over.
“In cabinet decisions made in 2006 and 2010, it was decided to grant permanent residency to the children of migrants age 6 and over who meet certain conditions,” the group said in a statement. “The question is why now the right to voice feelings and wishes is being limited to children twice as old.”
The group added that in 2007 the state ruled that children as young as 6 had the right to be heard in family court in proceedings that affected them. “The choice of age 12 as the minimum age for hearing out children who are about to be deported from their birthplace is puzzling, discriminatory and unreasonable,” it said.