Israel Seeks to Deport Filipina Who Refuses to Say Where Her Children Hide – With or Without Them

'Since she hasn’t proven she’s a mother, she’s being treated like an illegal resident without children,' immigration authorities insist, as deportation drive goes on

Children protest deportation of Israeli-born children of foreign workers outside the Prime Minister's Residence, Jerusalem, June 11, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Israel's Interior Ministry seeks to deport, without her Israeli-born children, a citizen of the Philippines who is living in Israeli without proper documentation.

In a bid to prevent her two children from being detained and expelled with her, the woman won’t tell the authorities where they are. As a result, the ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority has declared that she is a “childless illegal resident” who can be expelled without her children.

The woman, whose name has been barred from publication, has been in Givon Prison since last Tuesday, when she was arrested by immigration police in Rishon Letzion. Her children, aged 10 and 12, were not with her at the time of her arrest. Since then they have been in hiding.

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After her arrest, Immigration Authority inspectors brought the woman to her apartment in Tel Aviv, but no one was there. At a hearing the same day with the supervisor of border control at Ben-Gurion International Airport, it was decided to deport her. The minutes of the hearing say that “there were no documents or signs that indicate that children were living in the apartment.”

She has been in Israel since 2004. Inspectors exerted heavy pressure on her to reveal her children’s location so that they could arrest them too, but she refused. The Immigration Authority now insists that she be deported without her children, saying, “She is defined as childless, since she hasn’t proven she’s a mother, and she’s being treated like an illegal resident without children.”

Her lawyer, Yishai Sarid, sent the Immigration Authority the children’s birth certificates and letters from their schools indicating that she does have children. In response, the Immigration Authority said, “If you proves that she has children, we’ll help her to leave the country with them.”

The deportation has been postponed until after an appeal that has been scheduled for Wednesday. Sarid submitted a request for the woman's release from custody. He said his client hopes to obtain legal status in Israel for her and her children on humanitarian considerations, in part because the children were born in Israel, speak Hebrew and have never been outside the country.

In the appeal, Sarid wrote that if she were to be deported without her children, the children “will be motherless, without her care and supervision, with the family destroyed.” Sarid said the immigration agency “completely ignores the risks and the great and irreversible damage the children of the appellant will suffer, as will the appellant herself, due to the separation and deportation. This, in fact, abandons these children to their fate.” Sarid also wrote that “the children are minors and were not arrested. They therefore had no hearing, and their arguments were not heard. The respondent’s answer flies in the face of the supreme principle of considering a child’s best interest; this was not considered at all.”

In its response to the appeal, the Population and Immigration Authority asked the court to order her to reveal the children’s location so that they could return to their country as a family unit. According to the authority, “it appears that the plaintiff is cynically using her children as a shield against deportation from Israel, after residing here illegally for a long time.” Officials said that she was not cooperating with the process of deportation and was acting “in bad faith, hiding essential details while refusing to divulge her children’s whereabouts, while blatantly violating the law, taking the law into her own hands.”

The Population and Immigration Authority said that according to its records she has one child, and that they have no details about a second child. The children’s legal status was never established, say officials there. When asked about her children during her hearing, she said that she didn’t want her children taken to the Philippines. “I have no visa but they belong here. I want to stay here with my children since I’m the only one looking after them.” The Authority also wrote that “it’s clear that moving will be problematic for them. But, this [abovementioned] principle is not supreme and must be balanced against others, such as the maintenance of the state’s sovereignty and the execution of its migration policies.”

In conversation with Haaretz from her prison cell, she talked about her feelings. “I’m in jail, very concerned about my children. I don’t want to reveal where they are. Prison is not a place for children. They’re afraid and ask me on the phone when I’m coming to join them, telling me to be strong. I’m really afraid they’ll separate us and deport me without them. I won’t give them to the authority so they can be incarcerated and deported. I’ve been here for 15 years and have never been arrested, no one ever said anything to me. I don’t understand what’s happening, why they’re taking them from me. I’m in an impossible situation.”

Haaretz reported Monday that the deportation of foreign workers and their children that began over the summer would continue throughout the school year. This is in contrast to last year’s policy, when it was decided not to deport families with children during the school year, restricting this to the summer months. In previous years, children were deported throughout the year.