Tel Aviv Seeks to Allow Some Migrants to Stay

The Tel Aviv municipality has so far responded ambiguously to the large-scale sweep of migrant workers in the city.

The Tel Aviv municipality is pushing to allow certain foreign residents to remain in the city, despite the government policy forbidding migrants from staying in the center of the country.

This comes after two weeks of arrests by the Interior Ministry's immigration unit, Oz. Some of the detainees were removed from central Israel, in keeping with the government policy that migrants must be north of Hadera or south of Gedera, while other illegal migrants have been deported.

Yael Dayan, chairwoman of the municipal Human Rights Committee, told Haaretz that the committee had reached an agreement with representatives of aid organizations, including the United Nations, and Oz commander Tziki Sela.

Under the agreement, the cases of foreigners who meet specific criteria will be passed to the Interior Ministry, which will consider giving them permits to remain in Tel Aviv. The plan still needs ministry approval.

Exemptions are being sought for members of four groups: refugees with children enrolled in municipal schools who lack permits to reside in the Greater Tel Aviv area; migrant workers with special-needs children; migrant workers whose children are about to begin matriculation exams in local high schools; and refugee teenagers who came to Israel without their parents and are under the auspices of the Noar Haoved Vehalomed youth movement.

Dayan said the refugees whose children were enrolled in public schools would not be deported in any case, and therefore it would be pointless to move their children to different schools. The migrants with special-needs children were a humanitarian case, since they were unlikely to find similar treatment for their children in their countries of origin, she said.

"We originally asked that no families with children in local schools be expelled from the city or deported," said Dayan. The four groups were a compromise.

"The children are not a burden on the municipality, and we are quite capable of providing the necessary services," said Tel Aviv deputy mayor Assaf Zamir. "These are kids who were born here, and as far as I'm concerned, they are as Tel Avivian as it gets. This is what we told Tziki Sela."

The Tel Aviv municipality has so far responded ambiguously to the large-scale sweep of migrant workers in the city.

At the city council meeting last week, councilwoman Yael Ben Yeffet (Ir Lekulanu) proposed condemning the deportation, but mayor Ron Huldai eventually issued a much milder statement, noting the municipality was subject to government decisions but calling on the authorities to be sensitive to humanitarian needs and children's rights.