One hundred foreign workers from the Philippines, along with their children, who were born in Israel, are set to be deported from Israel this summer by the Population and Immigration Authority.
The Filipino community in Israel estimates that the actual number will be larger in the end, whereas the Immigration Authority has confirmed that a few dozen people are involved. Many of the children who were raised here speak only Hebrew. The mothers were handed papers indicating that they will be deported in July and August.
These are woman who came to Israel legally for the purpose of working here, but whose visas were not renewed because they gave birth here. The Population and Immigration Authority says that “these are foreign nationals who’ve been here illegally for a long time, without any legal status.”
On Tuesday, dozens of mothers with their children demonstrated opposite the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, in protest over the planned deportation. They demanded that they and their children be allowed to stay here at least until the children finish high school. The children at the demonstration carried placards saying: “I grew up here, I dream in Hebrew, let me continue dreaming,” or “why do you want to deport me” and “Israel is my home, let me stay home.”
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The children chanted: “You don’t arrest and deport kids – kids are not criminals” and “Here is my home, I was born here.” Others cried: “We love Israel, don’t deport Israeli children.”
D., who is 11, has lived here all his life. He told Haaretz that he’s very frightened. “I don’t know any other country. I’ve never bothered this country and I’m Israeli like other children. I don’t want a report card from school, since I know that after that comes the deportation. I don’t know what I’ll do in the Philippines. It’s not my home and I don’t speak the language. I don’t know anyone there.”
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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.
In contrast, the heads of the Filipino community in Israel, social activists and people from the Bialik-Rogozin school, in which many of these children are studying, say that this is a dramatic change and that in recent years there have been almost no deportations. Mothers who refused to sign documents in which they committed to leave this summer were arrested. Those who signed were immediately released.
There are currently 1,478 children of foreign workers in the school system. Foreign workers are not allowed to bring their children or other family members when they come here. In the past, a foreign worker with a visa who gave birth here was asked to leave with her baby, and was only allowed back without her child. In 2011, the High Court of Justice abolished this procedure, and according to current rules a foreign worker can stay here with her baby until her visa expires. At that time, the baby gets a temporary residence permit.
“We appeal to the best people in Israel, asking to let our children enjoy themselves and relax after school is over, instead of worrying whether their mother will come back home at night,” says Beth Franco, from UCI, an organization that looks after foreign children. “They stay home and don’t enjoy being outside with their friends, looking out the window to see if someone has come to arrest them. Help us prevent their deportation.”
The Population and Immigration Authority said in response that “these are foreign nationals who have been here for a long time unlawfully, without legal status. In some cases, the fathers have returned to their country of origin. The workers were detained because they were here illegally, but out of consideration it was decided to let their children finish the school year, with the mothers then going home voluntarily. We regret that this considerate decision is being misused.”