The Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva told court on Thursday it will allow asylum seekers to register their children for municipal schools, after stonewalling them for years.
The municipality agreed to a compromise in the wake of an administrative petition filed with the Lod District Court on behalf of 130 asylum seekers, who averred that they had been prevented from registering with municipal educational institutions. The city also pledged to “integrate the children of asylum seekers into educational institutions without separate frameworks for foreign children and Israeli children.”
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The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the University of Haifa’s Clinic for Law and Education Policy petitioned the court in June after parents, who are asylum seekers, reported that the city was preventing them from registering their children for the coming school year.
The parents had started the registration process several months previously and avowed they had provided all the required forms. With the beginning of the current school year and after the petition had been filed, most children were integrated into Petah Tikva’s educational frameworks. The compromise deal is meant to permanently regulate the registration of children of asylum seekers for municipal kindergartens and schools.
The deal requires asylum seekers to prove they live in the city before registering their children by either providing a valid rental contract, water bill, municipal tax bill or affidavit. Additionally, the city pledged to give every parent either a positive response or a reasoned rejection, which can be appealed.
Attorneys Tal Hassin of the Association for Civil Rights and Ran Reichman of University of Haifa said in a joint statement that “recognizing the right of asylum seeker children to be placed in integrated educational frameworks together with Israeli citizens is a true, uplifting and multifaceted achievement.” They noted that “the city of Petah Tikva finally internalized the right of these children to an education and equality in education.
“Integration in kindergarten will put the children of asylum seekers at a starting point that will enable every one of them to realize their own potential, and to overcome the gaps in language and capabilities that stemmed from their separate placement,” the statement added.
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Last year, the city placed children of asylum seekers in municipal schools only after the Central District Court obliged it to do so. Afterward, the court ruled that the municipality had acted in contempt of the first ruling when it failed to meet the timetable to register the children. The city made registration contingent upon taking photos of their parents’ apartments. The city had also stalled registration in 2016 and only gave in after a petition was filed with the district court. A source familiar with the matter said that the children were placed in dilapidated kindergartens located in outdated buildings.
The Petah Tikva Municipality said in a statement: “The deal that was signed on the matter indicates that the city never conducted a discriminatory policy. When children of foreign workers were assigned to designated kindergartens, it was done according to the area of their registration as is done in every city. Under the agreement, the city reiterated its position that it seeks to place the children in kindergartens subject to standard procedures and in coordination with the Education Ministry,” the statement read.