Israel Tried to Deport Ethiopian Woman Who Escaped Her Violent Israeli Husband After 24 Years in the Country

The state sought to deny her residency status despite her many years in Israel and her Israeli sister and daughter. The population authority is revisiting the case

Shopping truly brings together birds of different feathers: An Ethiopian woman and an Arab man in the Ramle market.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Interior Ministry has refused to grant residency status to an Ethiopian woman and acted to deport her, even though she has lived in Israel for over two decades, was married to an Israeli for more than 10 years and her sister and daughter are Israeli citizens.

Around two months ago the appeals tribunal for status and residency in Jerusalem ordered that the ministry not deport the woman; instead, it advised an extension of her temporary residency visa, which grants her basic entitlements.

“The Interior Ministry tried to deport a woman who is clearly entitled to live in Israel," said her lawyer, Tomer Warsha. "Her home is here, and she has an Israeli daughter.”

The woman, 41, has lived in Israel for 24 years. She has a daughter from a former relationship with another Israeli. She left her husband following an especially violent attack, after many years of suffering domestic violence.

“My family is here. In Ethiopia I have nothing,” she told Haaretz. “I have suffered much violence. I can’t see with one eye. I need surgery, but because I didn’t have residency status I couldn’t do it,” she said.

“I worked for him, [her husband] didn’t work. He went to jail twice for beating me. I told the Interior Ministry, but they decided not to let me stay here.”

After leaving her husband, the woman asked the interministerial committee for humanitarian affairs for permanent residency status. The committee denied her request and six months ago the Population and Immigration Authority ordered her to leave Israel.

The Population and Immigration Authority now says it intends to reexamine the case in view of recently obtained information.

The woman entered Israel still a teenager, and two years later her daughter was born. In 1999 she married an Israeli of Ethiopian origin and three months later they applied to obtain for her residency status, as the wife of an Israeli.

The request was not handled, at first because of “a suspicion regarding her husband’s Jewishness,” the ministry said.

At the end of 2005, after having reapplied for residency status in 2004, she received her first work permit and a year later was granted temporary residency status. Her daughter received the same status.

During the marriage, her husband was investigated several times on suspicion of domestic violence and other criminal offenses, some of which he would be convicted of.

At the end of 2009 he turned up drunk at the restaurant his wife owned, grabbed her hair and smashed a bottle on her head. He beat her with the broken bottle and broke another bottle on her hand, when she tried to protect her face. He fled, leaving her bleeding on the floor. She was left with deep cuts on her forehead, ear and arm, and wounds to her torso.

She then left him, and the process to receive residency status was cut short. At the beginning of 2010 he was convicted for the violence against his wife and sentenced to 10 months in prison.

In June 2010 she asked for residency status for humanitarian reasons. Two years later the committee granted her temporary residency status until deciding on her case. In December 2013 the committee extended her visa and decided to reexamine her case, but six months ago her request was denied, in part because of her daughter’s medical studies abroad.

Yaar Dagan of Warsha’s law firm said in the appeal that she had been entitled to Israeli citizenship many years ago. The committee failed to take into consideration her husband’s violence, her long stay in Israel and the fact that her daughter planned to return and join the army after completing her medical studies.

Warsha said the ministry discriminates against the Ethiopian community and has acted several times against the law. “There are many others in her situation and we’re glad the court prevented this deportation attempt,” he said.