A Liberian man who lived in Israel for 12 years with his partner and her daughter and had applied for permanent residence was barred from returning after visiting his home country. Mohamed Keita left Israel a year ago to see his dying mother and was denied entry.
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For 12 years, Keita has been in a relationship with Liziwe Pootjies, a South African national. Her daughter, Forever, 14, was born in Israel, and Keita has raised her as his own.
“We are very close, we’ve been together since I was very young,” Forever told Haaretz on Sunday. [Keita] was always there for me, I miss him.”
Pootjies said she and Forever keep in touch with Keita by phone and video chat.
In keeping with an August 2010 cabinet resolution, the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority gave permanent residency to Forever and temporary residency to her mother. A lawyer advised the family not to include Keita in their application. Keita was arrested soon after that, but the court recognized him as Forever’s psychological father and ordered his release in early 2011, to let him arrange his residency status. In the meantime, he received a temporary visa.
Keita applied for permanent residency on humanitarian grounds, but was rejected. On appeal, in June 2016, his case was submitted to the interministerial humanitarian exceptions committee.
In July 2016, the immigration agency told an appeals tribunal in Jerusalem that it would interview Keita and rule within four and a half months. That month Keita returned to Liberia to visit his dying mother. When he applied for a return visa, he was refused.
In late November 2016 the appeals tribunal gave the immigration agency three weeks to schedule an interview with Keita, leaving it to decide whether he could return to Israel.
The interview was held in mid-March at the Israeli Embassy in Senegal, after which Keita re-applied to the Population Authority for permission to return to Israel but received no reply. In May, he once again turned to the appeals court and in June, the Population Authority again turned down his request to return to Israel.
“The prime minister’s decision in 2010 determined that Forever is an Israeli girl for all intents and purposes and will receive citizenship when she reaches adulthood. Yet officials in the Population Authority think differently and discriminate against Forever because of her parents’ origin,” said Guy Brand, an immigration lawyer who represents Keita. He says her separation from Keita infringes on her right to be raised by both parents.
“I hope the interior minister will hear Forever’s cry and prevent further agony to her and her family by ordering that her father’s status be legalized for humanitarian reasons.”
The Population Authority said in response that Keita “is of a Liberian citizen whose partner and her daughter (who is not his daughter) were granted status by a cabinet resolution that precisely defines who is entitled to status. A psychological father is not included in this definition. His request for humanitarian status has been brought before the committee and a decision will be delivered soon.”