Court Halts Deportation of Israeli-born Filipino Children, Detained on the Way to School

Court to reexamine deportation of 13-year-old Gena Antigo and 10-year-old Ralph Harel, with judge asserting that the minors' welfare wasn't taken into account

13-year-old Gena Antigo and 10-year-old Ralph Harel, both facing deportation from Israel.
UCI, Tomer Appelbaum

An Israeli appeals court overturned Sunday the order to deport two Filipino migrants' children and their mothers on the grounds that the minors' welfare was not examined according to the new regulations issued by the Justice Ministry.

This is the first time the court reverses a deportation order since the current wave of deportations began.

Gena Antigo, 13, and Ralph Harel, 10, were released on a 30,000 shekel ($8,510) bail each on Friday. 

Antigo, an Israel-born Philippines national, is a seventh-grader who attends the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium School in Tel Aviv. She was arrested with her mother who has been living in Israel since 2004 without a permit.

Two days earlier Harel, an Israel-born fifth-Grader, was arrested with his mother Maureen Mariano, a Philippines national residing in Tel Aviv, as he was getting ready to go to his school.     

According to the new regulations, minors under the age of 12 should receive a hearing before a decision is made to deport them, while taking into consideration their will and wellbeing. 

The Population and Immigration Authority detained Antigo without conducting a hearing, in violation of the new Justice Ministry directive, Haaretz reported last week.

"It cannot be determined that the welfare of the minors was properly examined by the Population and Immigration Authority before it made its decision to issue the deportation order," Judge Michael Zilberschmidt said.

Ralph Harel, 10, and and his mother Maureen Mariano and Gena Antigo, 13, with their mothers at an appeals court.
Tomer Appelbaum

The judge continued: "After reading the respondent's decision, it cannot be determined that the Population and Immigration Authority inspectors took into consideration the wishes of the minor or his welfare as a component of his decision, as required by the directives. The respondent doesn't address the damage that could be caused to the minor as a result of his deportation, and there was no social services report describing the minors' condition and the significance of deporting them from Israel."

Zilberschmidt added that he realizes that the Immigration Authority had not yet had the time to implement the Justice Ministry directives, but said he believed that "until the new protocols are updated, the Authority must act in the spirit of the directives."

Since it was not done in this case, the petition not to deport the children and their mothers was returned to the Immigration Authority for reexamination, after which a new decision will be formed as to whether to issue new deportation orders.

Attorney David Tadmor, who with his colleagues is representing the two families pro bono, said following the ruling: "We thank the honorable court for its decision. Now the Immigration Authority, like any other authority in Israel, will be required to carry out the court's instructions regarding the welfare and safeguarding of the minors. We will continue to do whatever necessary to safeguard the children's rights and welfare, wherever they are."

On Thursday, some 1,000 students, teachers and parents demonstrated outside of Givon Prison against the detention Antigo and Harel.

Demonstrators held signs reading: "We won't let them deport Gena," "They're children just like us" and "No evil in our schools."

As the new school year began, the director general of the Immigration Authority, Shlomo Mor Yosef, promised that children of migrants would not be stopped during the school day, on their way to school or on their way home. The Authority said the arrests do not violate this promise, as it does not apply to the timeframe prior to leaving for school.