Predawn Raid Launches Israel's Campaign to Deport Filipina Immigrants and Their Children

Mother and Israeli-born son arrested at home in central city, detained at Ben-Gurion Airport, despite unresolved legal process

A protest against the deportation of Filipina workers and their children in Tel Aviv, July 10, 2019.
Meged Gozani

Immigration enforcement agents arrested a mother and son in a predawn raid on their Yehud home on Sunday, even though the boy was born in Israel and the family’s appeal of the decision to deport them is still pending.

This is the first time this summer that the Interior Ministry has tried to carry out a deportation order against a woman with a child born in Israel who is studying in an Israeli school. The boy is in a special education program and will be starting seventh grade in September.

Ofresina Koanka and her son Michael James are currently being held at the detention center in Ben-Gurion Airport.

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Sunday evening, the appellate custody tribunal in Tel Aviv issued an injunction against their deportation until 10 A.M. Monday morning and ordered the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority to respond by then to their request to remain here in Israel. A protest against the deportation was also being organized in Tel Aviv’s Gan Meir Park for Sunday evening.

“This is a false arrest that violates the law and Interior Ministry regulations,” said the family’s attorney, Zari Hazan. “On one hand, discussions are being held with the Interior Ministry, but on the other, a different department decides to arrest a 12-year-old boy and his mother in their beds at 5 A.M.”

The Population and Immigration Authority plans to deport about 100 foreign workers from the Philippines, along with their children, who were born in Israel, are set to be deported from Israel this summer.

The Filipino community in Israel fears the actual number will be larger in the end, whereas the Immigration Authority has confirmed that the number is in the dozens.

In 2006 and 2010, the government made two decisions granting legal status to the children of foreign workers. Now, children who did not get legal status at that time due to their age, but were not deported then and have since gone to school here, are asking the government to recognize them and not deport them to their parents’ country of origin, which they’ve never seen.

Last February, Haaretz was the first to report that the Population and Immigration Authority had detained 20 foreign workers from the Philippines who were to be deported with their children. The authority claims that there is no change in that policy and that there is no decision to expel masses of people, only this one large group that will be deported in accordance with a policy that allows children to finish their school year.