Register Children of Asylum Seekers or Face Fines, Court Tells Petah Tikva City Hall

About 58 children whose residence was confirmed to be in Petah Tikva are still waiting to be put on the municipality's books

A demonstration of children of asylum-seekers in Petah Tikva, July 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Central District Court in Lod ruled on Wednesday that the city of Petah Tikva is in contempt of court for not carrying out a decision from July requiring it to register the children of asylum seekers living in the city for school. 

The city received 276 such requests to register nursery school, kindergarten and school children, most of whom are Eritrean citizens. The city is yet to register 64 although it knows that at least 58 of them live in the city.

Judge Varda Meroz ruled that the municipality must register the 58 children by October 10, and if not, after that date it will have to pay a fine of 40,000 shekels ($11,500) for every day of delay. Meroz also ordered the city to pay 15,000 shekels in court costs.

A demonstration of children of asylum-seekers in Petah Tikva, July 2019. Sign quotes a passage from the Bible: "And you loved the foreigners because you were foreign in the land of Egypt"
Tomer Appelbaum

In her ruling, Meroz described correspondence between the head of the Education Ministry’s Tel Aviv District and Petah Tikva, in which it was revealed that the city has had confirmation that the pupils live in Petah Tikva since September 10. “The school year opened a month ago and despite that 64 children are without an educational framework. This is an unacceptable situation, which seems to represent a violation of the mandatory schooling law, according to which every child in Israel must be provided with educational services no matter who they are, without any relation to their origin or status,” wrote Meroz.

The fact that no educational framework has yet been found for the children is “worrying and distressing,” she added. Meroz also criticized the Education Ministry saying it should have acted to provide the children with an education and not to make do with just warnings to the city and attempts to mediate the situation.

The suit to require registration of the children was filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the refugee aid organization ASSAF, and they also filed the petition claiming the city was in contempt of court for not integrating the children into the city’s school system.

The city responded that it had acted with “good will” to carry out the court’s ruling, and presented the children it did register as proof. The city said it did so even though some of the requests were submitted without the necessary documents. It added that the registration process is a Sisyphean work that has not yet been completed – and the city has provided resources to do so far beyond what it is required to do. 

The lawyers representing the children said they were pleased that the court realized that the city is not acting with clean hands and ordered unambiguously to register the children. “We hope the clear message will bring about an end to the city’s abuse of the children of asylum seekers and it will be heard in other cities too.”

The Petah Tikva municipality said “the court accepted the city’s position that in many cases the connection between the children and the city was not proven properly, so it made the registration conditional upon the filing of an affidavit proving such a connection.” In addition, the court did not accept the claims made against the mayor, said the city.