Some 2,000 people protested in Tel Aviv on Monday against the authorities’ plans to deport more than 100 children who were born in Israel to Filipina women. The women had come to Israel legally as foreign workers, but once their children were born, the women’s work permits were not renewed. They became subject, along with the children, to being deported.
The protesters, many of whom were children of either Israeli or Filipino background, stood together holding Israeli flags and chanting slogans such as “children should not be deported” and “there is no difference between blood because we are all human beings” (which contains alliteration in Hebrew).
The deportations are expected to be carried out in July and August. The Population and Immigration Authority issued a statement saying: “These are foreign citizens who have been in Israel for a very long time in total violation of the law and without any orderly status.”
In 2006 and again in 2010, the Israeli cabinet passed resolutions providing legal status to children born to foreign workers. The protests relate to children who, because of when they were born, were not covered by the cabinet resolutions and are subject to deportation to the Philippines, a place many of them have never visited.
Kaitlin, who is 9 and in the fourth grade at Tel Aviv’s Bialik-Rogozin school, said she was afraid of being deported. “I feel very sad. I’m here with my parents and I was born in Israel. I’m not familiar with the Philippines and I’m afraid of not being able to go to school with my friends next year.”
Mila, a 45-year-old mother of two, has been living in Israel for 16 years. She told Haaretz that she initially had permission to work in Israel as a home nursing care worker but had her permission revoked after she got pregnant. For the past 12 years, she said, she has been working as a cleaner without a work permit.
“I have a son of 7 and a daughter of 11. I can return to the Philippines, but they can’t. They don’t know the language,” she said. “The children want to remain here with their Israeli friends. I want to continue to work and contribute to the country. I love the country.”
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A small counter-protest was held opposite the larger demonstration. It was led by Shefi Paz, who has also led past protests against asylum seekers. Among the slogans of the counter-protesters was “people don’t receive citizenship because they were born here.”
There were scouts among those protesting the impending deportations. Adi Ben-Simhon, 28, who is a coordinator for the scout movement in south Tel Aviv, a neighborhood that is home to a large number of asylum seekers, said the scouts showed up to demonstrate because “these children have been our students for years.”
“There are children who have been issued orders to be deported just before our summer camp, so they haven’t signed up,” she said. “They asked us why they couldn’t at least wait until camp was over.”
Among the speakers at the protest was Meretz Knesset member Michal Rozin, who urged authorities to reconsider the deportation orders and referred to the parents as “part of the labor market that Israel needs.”
Hadash Knesset member Ofer Cassif claimed the deportation decision “has a strong odor of corruption,” adding: “They’re deporting foreign workers with one hand and bring in others with the other. People who trade in workers are getting rich from the sale of work visas while children are losing their entire world.”
For its part, the city schools’ parents association sent Interior Minister Arye Dery a strong letter protesting the deportations.