12-year-old Boy Jailed in Israel as Mother Faces Deportation

Boy held in custody with mother after she was arrested for remaining in country illegally

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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File photo: Israel's Givon Prison in November, 2018.
File photo: Israel's Givon Prison in November, 2018.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Vlad, 12, has been jailed with his mother, Ira, 36, for five days at the Givon prison. They’re being held in inmate block 2, where the women are held.

At first they were confined to their cell for 21 hours a day because he’s a male in a female prison. He was permitted to use the yard for just three hours a day. Due to his youth, the Prison Authority is now permitting Vlad to roam freely in the lockup like all the other inmates. He faces roll call four times a day.

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority is holding him in custody until his mother agrees to deportation, which could take weeks. If they refuse to get on a plane to Ukraine, they will be forced to fly there under official escort.

“I’m fine,” the boy says over and over again in an interview with Haaretz on Monday. He smiles a lot and seems to understand where he is. The cell is a typical one, with board games scattered across the table, next to some coloring books and colored pencils. Each day Vlad colors another page. He wears pajamas and black shoes, and his mother tries to create as homey a feeling as she can.

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The boy says he watches movie videos but would be happy to return to school in Israel. His mother says, “We don’t want to return to Ukraine. I’m alone there and under threat. I hope we can stay in Israel.”

The Ukrainian citizens spent the last three months in Rishon Letzion. Vlad began the seventh grade there. They lived with the mother’s brother, an Israeli citizen by virtue of his marriage to an Israeli. Ira, who entered Israel on a tourist visa, asked an attorney to file an asylum request on her behalf. She says she has received threats to her life in Ukraine because of a relative’s political actions.

The attorneys have not finished gathering all the paperwork they need for the request, and she was arrested on Thursday for remaining in the country illegally. The authorities rejected her attorney’s request to leave the boy at the uncle’s home while his mother was in custody.

Ira’s attorney, Orian Sahar, said: “This is an outrageous case that shows the bureaucratic snags of the state’s authorities that land a young boy behind bars, fences and barbed wire, only for seeking safety in Israel after being forced to leave his homeland for fear of his and his mother’s life. It’s all the more incomprehensible given that the minor’s uncle is an Israeli citizen providing full protection for the minor and his mother. Instead of allowing the uncle to have custody of his nephew, the authorities have chosen to jail the minor at the Givon prison. Beyond the moral and humanitarian issues, the violation of basic human rights and the psychological damage done to the minor by jailing him, the state’s decision is extremely unreasonable given the documentation provided at a hearing on their incarceration.”

The court was expected to hear the case again on Tuesday.

There are 30 female candidates for deportation in the prison by immigration authority orders. Men are men held in a separate cell block, as are criminal inmates.

Prison wardens have brought toys and clothing for the children a number of times.

Data obtained by Haaretz shows that since August, 16 women and children have been held at Givon.

A woman and son were deported last month, also Ukrainian citizens, who had spent three weeks at Givon. In October a Filipina and her 9-year-old son were jailed there for a week before being deported. A few days earlier, a Filipina with her 4-year-old son spent four days at the prison; in September an Indian woman spent time there with an 11-month-old baby. In August two Filipinas spent time there with a girl of 2 and a boy of 11. A mother of a two-month-old infant was jailed there in August, along with the mother of a 4-year old girl from Ukraine.

Israel customarily jailed children in rough conditions for years and faced criticism by the state comptroller and the United Nations Commission on Children’s Rights until 2011, when the Population Authority avoided deporting women with children, preferring to deport only the fathers so that the women and children would follow in their footsteps. Most minors imprisoned were of African origin whose families had crossed into Israel from Egypt and were jailed. In 2007-2012, 1,547 alien minors spent time in prisons.

The population authority said in response: “The case involves a woman tourist who was arrested with her son for an illegal stay in the country. She will face a judge in the court tomorrow [Tuesday] in accordance with procedures and afterwards, a decision will be made about the case.”

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