Immigration Police Arrest Israeli-born Filipina Girl, 13, as She Was Leaving for School

Gena, who was born in Israel, did not receive a court-mandated hearing ■ 'What kind of society are we?' laments school principal

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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Gena, 13, who was arrested by immigration police as she was about to leave for school, October 29, 2019
Gena, 13, who was arrested by immigration police as she was about to leave for school, October 29, 2019Credit: Courtesy of UCI
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

The Population and Immigration Authority on Wednesday detained a 13-year-old girl and her mother, a migrant living in Israel illegally, and held them in Givon Prison. No hearing has been held for the girl, despite the new directives of the Justice Ministry.

Sources in the authority said they would hold hearings for the children of foreign workers slated for deportation only after the required border control personnel have been trained. The authority refused to commit to a date when the hearings will start, or even when the training would get underway.

According to the new Justice Ministry guidelines, children over 12 are to be given a hearing so they can express their opinions about the possibility of being deported. Such hearings are supposed to be held before the child and her family are detained.

Gena, 13, who was arrested by immigration police as she was about to leave for school, October 29, 2019 Credit: Courtesy of UCI

Gena, a Philippine national who was born in Israel, is a 7th-grader at Gymnasia Herzliya in Tel Aviv. Her mother has been in Israel since 2004, and has been without a visa for the past 12 years. Inspectors came to their house shortly after 6 A.M., when Gena was preparing to go to school.

When the school year opened, the head of the Population and Immigration Authority, Shlomo Mor-Yosef, had promised that the children of migrants in an illegal situation would not be detained during the school day or en route to or from school. Another child, Ralph Harel, a fifth grader, was also detained before he left for school. The Population and Immigration Authority says these detentions do not violate Mor-Yosef’s commitment, which did not extend to the time children are getting ready for school.

Ze’ev Degani, the principal of Gymnasia Herzliya, came with several teachers to the migrant detention facility at Beit Dagan to protest the detention of Gena and her mother, and to call for their immediate release. Degani said he and the teachers saw Gena behind bars in the facility and that she was crying incessantly. On Thursday, the school will be sending 10 busloads of pupils and teachers to demonstrate in front of Givon Prison.

“It is inhuman, illegal and immoral to arrest and deport a girl who was merely preparing her bag for school,” Degani told Haaretz. “Our government harasses a young girl when it doesn’t manage to deal with much bigger problems. What kind of society are we? I’m embarrassed to be an Israeli these days. We in the school will fight until Gena is released.”

Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Tzipi Brand, who has spoken to senior immigration officials several times about the deportation of migrants’ children, said, “We have to put a stop to the current situation. It’s inconceivable that children living in this country, who have done nothing and hurt no one, are arrested before they leave for a routine day of school. This is a bizarre reality, certainly after the agreement reached with the Population and Immigration Authority, under which pupils would not be arrested on their way to or from school.”

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