Israeli City Blocks Children of Asylum Seekers From Enrolling in School, Defying Court Order

The municipality came to an agreement with the parents over the summer but no placement has been given to the children, forcing them to stay home

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

Three weeks after the start of the school year, the Petah Tikva municipality has not registered 60 children of asylum seekers so they can attend school, despite a court order over the summer to do so, forcing them to stay at home.

The children’s parents have submitted the documents showing that the city is their place of residence to both the municipality and the Education Ministry.

The parents and the refugee aid organization ASSAF have submitted an urgent petition claiming contempt of court. They are demanding that the court fine the municipality and the mayor personally if the children continue to be prevented from enrolling in school. They are also requesting an arrest warrant against Petah Tikva Mayor Rami Greenberg.

>> Read more: Inside the struggle to help African asylum seekers in Israel obtain higher education

Attorneys Haran Riechman from The Clinic for Law and Educational Policy at Haifa University and Tal Hassin from the Association for Civil Right in Israel have also signed on to the petition.

Since January, the municipality has blocked asylum seekers from registering their children in schools under its jurisdiction. In July, under pressure from the District Court, the municipality allowed registration to take place. In the hearing, Justice Varda Meroz reprimanded the municipality and called its behavior “insensitive, since this was a disadvantaged population.” The judge added that “the municipality has not opened its doors as required – these people did not choose to be migrants or refugees.” She suggested that the municipality reach an agreement with parents over opening registration in kindergartens. An agreement was reached in line with the court ruling.

Following the ruling, parents submitted documents to prove their residence in the city, such as rental contracts, municipal tax payments and electricity bills, as well as birth certificates. Despite this, claim the petitioners, the parents received no notices regarding their children’s placement in city schools. When they turned to the municipality, they were repeatedly told that they would soon receive information. The petitioners said that city officials used various pretexts to avoid registering the children. In several cases, the Education Ministry was told that the municipality was refusing to register children since they didn’t live in the city, even though their siblings were attending city schools.

A circular disseminated by the ministry in 2000 states that the law regarding compulsory education applies to all children residing in Israel, regardless of their legal status. It specifically states that “this applies to school-age children of foreign workers who are in Israel, regardless of the formal status of their parents. The Education Ministry, local councils and school principals will provide pupils with complete education, according to their needs.”

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