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Lapid, Save This Filipina Girl

Haaretz Editorial
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Filipino girl Michelle (alias) at the Akim shelter in August
Filipino girl Michelle (alias) at the Akim shelter in AugustCredit: Hadas Parush
Haaretz Editorial

The Interior Ministry’s decision to reject the application for residency on humanitarian grounds of a 16-year-old autistic girl from the Philippines, who was abandoned in Israel, and to deport her within 30 days, points to a moral decline. Members of the Interministerial Committee for Humanitarian Affairs, including a representative of the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry, ruled unanimously that the request “did not reflect any special humanitarian needs that would warrant the award of such status in Israel.”

It’s not clear what passed through the minds of the committee members when they rejected the girl’s application and order her deported to the Philippines, a country where no one is waiting for her and whose language she does not remember.

Where were their discretionary powers? For whom do their reserve their pity? Why did no one from the Social Services Ministry pound on the table and ask again what is in the best interests of this girl, who in her short life has known nothing but abuse, neglect and abandonment? If this case does not “reflect special humanitarian needs,” it’s not clear why there is a need for this panel or its Social Services Ministry representatives.

The girl’s difficulties began when she was still an infant. She was born in the Philippines, where her mother abandoned her before she was a year old. At age 10 she was sent to Israel to live with her father, who lived with a partner and held temporary resident status. But this too turned out to be only another phase in the terrible ordeal of her life.

About three years ago, after she was found wandering the streets of Tel Aviv alone, she was placed in the care of social services. She was diagnosed with autism and also with post-traumatic stress disorder from the violence she had experienced.

As a result she was removed from her home and placed in an apartment operated by Akim Israel, the national organization for people with intellectual disabilities. In the meantime, the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority had revoked her father’s residency status. He was deported and broke off contact with his daughter.

But none of that pierced the wall of callousness of the people policing the national borders; perish the thought that a rumor of Israel’s compassion might escape. The director of the immigration agency, Tomer Moskowitz, accepted the committee’s recommendation based on an investigation by the Social Services Ministry, which found a framework where the girl could live in the Philippines.

Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen said, after the case was reported in August: “If need be, I will go to the humanitarian committee myself,” but his ministry was part of the decision to deport the girl. Prime Minister Yair Lapid had previously asked the interior minister to grant the girl legal status, but even a representative of his ministry at the time (the Foreign Ministry) on the committee voted for deportation. If Lapid’s intentions are serious, he must take immediate action. If he does not, he will share in this disgrace.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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