Israeli City Subjects School Registration of Asylum Seekers’ Children to Home Visits

Petah Tikva municipality demanded to visit the homes of dozens of asylum seekers and photograph their interiors, or else they would bar the children from attending school

Asylum seekers protest the city's refusal to allow their children to enroll in school, Petah Tikva, July 9, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

An Israeli city is making the registration of asylum seekers’ children in the municipal school system subject to home visits and documentation by inspectors, ostensibly to ensure that the families are indeed Petah Tikva residents.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Law and Educational Policy Legal Clinic at the University of Haifa wrote a letter to Petah Tikva Mayor Rami Greenberg on Tuesday, demanding that he order city workers to halt this practice.

According to the letter, the municipality demanded to visit the homes of dozens of asylum seekers and photograph their interiors.

>> Read more: Israeli authorities are severely violent toward asylum seekers, NGO report warns

The municipality released a statement saying that “these inspections are done comprehensively and according to law.”

In one of the cases cited in the letter, when an asylum seeker objected to the city workers photographing his home, they responded that refusal will result in his children not being registered in school. In another case, an asylum seeker told the city representative that he and his wife worked during the week, but that he could accommodate a visit on Friday.

In response, the representative said that he understood from this that they don’t actually live in the apartment. In another case, the city employee called the asylum seeker as he was standing in front of his building and demanded to be let in.

Attorney Tal Hassin of ACRI wrote in her inquiry to the municipality that "The individual inspection of dozens of people, all of whom are members of a population that’s unique in terms of origin and skin color, and the photographing of their homes, ostensibly as a condition for [school] registration, points to the fact that once again the city is trying to harass the asylum seekers living in the city and prevent their children from being placed in educational institutions, in an effort to get them to leave. […] This is what racism looks like.”

Hassin also demanded that the city send these asylum-seeker families confirmation that their children had been registered, in accordance with the court ruling.

Last month, the a district court ordered Petah Tikva to register 129 children of asylum seekers in the city’s schools, and to make sure they were in integrated classrooms.

The Petah Tikva municipality said it respects the court ruling and is acting lawfully. “The Petah Tikva municipality accepts its residents into its schools based on Education Ministry criteria. At the same time, to make sure that those seeking to enter the city’s schools are indeed Petah Tikva residents, the local authority periodically does examinations. It should be noted that these are done indiscriminately and legally.”

The Petah Tikva municipality has a history of trying to deter asylum seekers. In 2016, the court forced the municipality to register children of asylum seekers in city preschools.

In February 2017, the municipality cut off the electricity and water in apartments where asylum seekers lived.

At the beginning of 2019, the mayor of Petah Tikva sought to establish a tipline through which residents could report asylum seekers in their neighborhoods so that they might be deported.