Israeli Court Orders State Not Deport 14 Children of Foreign Workers

Interior Minister Arye Dery had refused to grant the children, who were born and raised in Israel, permanent residency status

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The children who face deportation in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park, November 16, 2016.
The children who face deportation in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park, November 16, 2016. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Jerusalem District Court ordered the Interior Ministry not to deport 14 12-year-old children of foreign workers who were born and raised in Israel, and are now all in the seventh grade.

Interior Minister Arye Dery, like his predecessor Gideon Sa’ar, refused to grant the children permanent residency status in Israel. Judge Arnon Darel ordered the government to reconsider the matter Monday. In doing so he reversed a decision made last year on immigration issues by the appeals panel. In addition, he reversed the lower court’s decision to make the petitioners pay court costs and even ordered the state to pay the families 10,000 shekels for attorney’s fees.

The children were not eligible for residency under the cabinet decision from August 2010, which set criteria for granting such status to the children of foreign workers. The decision applied to all children of foreign workers who were age 10 and over in 2005, born in Israel, speak Hebrew, were studying in or have completed the Israeli education system and whose parents entered Israel legally. Children of foreign workers meeting these criteria were to be granted permanent residency and later, citizenship. Their relatives could become temporary residents and when their siblings are drafted into the army, they too will become Israeli citizens.

Born in 2005, this cohort of children missed the ruling’s eligibility cut-off. At first the Interior Ministry rejected requests for residency from all such children, but after parents filed suit the ministry changed its decision and granted 19 of them permanent residency, with their families receiving temporary residency permits.

The parents of the 14 children involved in the present court case, who now cannot be deported, said they did not initially submit requests for their children’s residency out of knowledge they did not meet the cabinet decision’s criteria and assumed their requests would be denied. When they learned of the decision to grant residency to other children in the same situation, they turned to the interior minister. Following his refusal, they went to court.

The future of 35 people in Israel, 14 children and 21 relatives, rested on this decision. All mothers involved are from the Philippines, as are most of the fathers, but a few fathers are foreign workers from Turkey and Thailand. Apart from two, the fathers have already left Israel either willingly or by deportation. The mothers all entered Israel legally on work visas and provided nursing care to Israeli citizens. They lost their residency status for various reasons, some because they became pregnant and others because their employers died but they remained in Israel anyway. Their children remained in the Israeli education system, though they lacked legal status and basic rights.

In the suit, the children claimed they were discriminated against because of their age, arguing that others in exactly the same position and of the same age had received residency permits.

The judge ruled that the government had changed its policy since 2010 and the decision should now apply equally to all children of the same age and who meet the criteria. He said no justification existed for such discrimination.