A Canadian citizen in Israel to visit her husband, a Sudanese asylum seeker, will only be allowed to stay in the country if she posts a 50,000 shekel bond ($13,500), a Tel Aviv court ruled on Thursday.
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The court limited the woman and her daughter's stay to one week, even though their return flight is in four weeks.
Gisama Mohammed, who is also originally from Sudan, had landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport with the couple’s 17-month-old daughter, who had previously only seen her father over the internet.
She told the immigration officer who questioned her that she planned to stay in Israel for a month, during which time she and her husband, Nurladin Musa, would get their papers in order to arrange his immigration to Canada.
When the interview was over, Mohammed was told that she and her daughter, Jenny, were being refused entry out of fear that they sought to settle in Israel. The two were placed in a holding facility and were due to be placed on a return flight to Canada.
Mohammed appealed the refusal, however, and for now she and her daughter remain in Israel. The immigration officials refused to let Musa meet his daughter at the airport, but he was finally able to see her at a court hearing in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
Mohammed and Musa were put in touch with each other seven years ago by a mutual acquaintance, and conducted a long-distance relationship. Around two years ago, Mohammed came to Israel, where she and Musa met for the first time and married at a wedding ceremony in Arad.
Musa received special leave for the occasion from the Holot detention facility where he was being held, including conjugal visits. Three weeks later, Mohammed returned to Canada. Nine months after that, their daughter was born.
Relatives registered the couple’s marriage in Sudan and sent them documentary proof. Mohammed and Musa say they maintain daily contact, through phone and video calls.
The Tel Aviv court of appeals accepted the immigration authority's claim that there was a concern that Gisama would seek to stay in Israel with her husband, but ruled that she could be let in if a bond was posted.
At the hearing, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority representative cast doubt on the couple’s story.
“We must doubt everything,” he said. “Musa’s paternity is presented as if it were fact – how am I supposed to know that?” he asked. The official stressed that a foreign worker cannot invite another foreigner to Israel, “for the obvious reason that he is a guest in the country, and it is not his country – much less when that person is an infiltrator, who entered the country illegally and imposed himself on the state.”
The representative from the Interior Ministry agency added that the authority’s main fear is of the migrants’ settling in Israel. “As soon as [Mohammed] seeks to visit her partner in Israel for any purpose other than tourism, it raises a fear of settlement,” he said.
Attorney Moriah Shlomot, who is representing the couple pro bono on behalf of civil-rights lawyer Michael Sfard’s firm, called the official’s remarks “horrid.”
She argued that Mohammed should not have had to submit a special request before coming to Israel. “If it were a different Canadian citizen, perhaps one not of Sudanese origin, she would not have been caught in this illegal procedure,” she said.
Shlomot noted that Mohammed had a steady job and two daughters from a previous marriage waiting for her in Canada. In addition, she has a return ticket to Canada for the end of the month. “The use of protocols and things that are irrelevant to this case is infuriating. We are talking about a Canadian citizen who has no intention of settling here,” Shlomot said, adding that the immigration authority should have an interest in helping Musa immigrate to Canada.
Judge Ilan Halevga asked the parties to try to negotiate a settlement. After a recess, the immigration authority representative announced that the position of his agency would not change. He said that in the event the court decided to let Mohammed and her daughter into the country, it must be through a court ruling and with the payment of a hefty deposit in order to guarantee their leaving Israel at the end of their visit.
The court has yet to deliver a verdict.