Israel to Expel 20 Migrant Worker Families After Six Years of Legal Limbo

A government decision laid down terms for receiving legal status in Israel six years ago, but 20 families only recently received rejection letters and an order to leave the country within 30 days.

The children of migrant workers protest outside of the prime minister's residence in 2012.
Olivier Fitoussi

Six years after a government decision granted hundreds of foreign children with recognized status in Israel, the Interior Ministry rejected recently the last 20 requests that had remained unanswered and ordered that the families leave Israel within 30 days. 

The ministry informed the children and their families of the decision in a short, uniform message as the Population, Immigration and Border Authority said that the children did not meet the criteria to receive status and that, in most of the cases, one of the parents entered the country illegally. 

"There were some 20 families left who hadn't received an answer and the Interior Ministry left them in uncertainty and without the ability to earn a living for six years," Rotem Ilan, an Israeli youth project coordinator at The Association for Civil rights in Israel (ACRI) wrote Wednesday. "Meanwhile, the children have been raised in and integrated even more into Israeli society and into the country that is the only homeland they know."

Ilan continued and wrote, "Today, Interior Minister Arye Dery decided to give them a 'gift' for the holiday of freedom. One day before these children got out for Passover vacation, the Interior Ministry rejected all of the requests in one swoop with a laconic answer that repeats itself and issued orders of expulsion from the country within 30 days.

"Do you all understand?" she continued. "It took the ministry six years to give an answer to their requests for status, but 30 days is enough to pack up their entire lives in the only home they have. We will, of course, fight this decision but I swear, sometimes I simply don't have any more strength for the amount of evil and indifference that is encountered in the field of migration." The ACRI announced that it intends to fight the decision.

Six years ago, in August 2010, the government set terms for giving status in Israel to foreign children. Included in the decision, the government approved giving permanent residency status to children who learned in schools under the auspices of the Education Ministry as well as to those who spoke Hebrew, those with various affiliations to Israel, those who lived in Israel continuously for at least five years and those who entered the country before the age of 13.

According to the decision, status would be given on the condition that the children's parents entered the country legally, even if they overstayed their visas. Some 700 requests to receive status for children were presented to the Interior Ministry after the government decision. Two years ago, then interior minister Gideon Sa'ar gave permanent residency status to 221 children and their families in accordance with the government's decision.