Children of migrant workers face deportation

The majority of the children of migrant workers will not receive official Israeli residency status, and are liable to be expelled from the country

On 19.12.05 the Deputy Minister of the Interior, Rohama Avraham, granted permanent residency status to ten children of migrant workers and their families, whose residency requests were authorized by the Ministry of the Interior.

The granting of residency status to the families is the fruit of a lengthy public outreach and legal campaign that was undertaken by human rights organizations on their behalf.

The organizations welcome this important decision by the government to grant these children, who were born in Israel and are Israelis in every sense, official status, and share in the joy of the children and their families who from this point on will be able to live without fear of expulsion. The children’s new status comes after two and a half years of brutal treatment by the immigration police, during which dozens of migrant workers were forcibly expelled, and many children who are now entitled to permanent residency status, were left with no father or mother by their side. We all hope that these families will never again witness the distressing scenes that were a daily reality for them, and will instead replace the fear and apprehension with feelings of security, belonging and hope.

However, there are many children and families for whom the ceremonial events did not represent a day of relief and hope, but rather an additional sign of impending danger. Although one must remember that the government’s decision represents an extremely significant precedent from one perspective: for the first time in its history the State of Israel recognized it’s responsibility vis-à-vis some of the migrant worker population living in the country. However, concomitant to this significant act, the government also authorized for the first time, the deportation and detention of the children and their families who are not included in the agreement. (The recent government decision stipulates four conditions for the granting of permanent residency status to children of migrant workers. The decision requires that: 1) the child be born in Israel; 2) that his/her parents entered the country legally before his/her birth; 3) that the child is ten years old or older; and 4) that the child speaks Hebrew and either attends school in Israel or has completed his/her studies). The expulsions were due to go into effect by March 2006 if they had not been blocked by the intervention of the Supreme Court which issued an interim injunction prohibiting, at this stage, the deportations. (The injunction applies to children who do not comply with the conditions stipulated by the government as the basic criteria for formal residency status: that the child was born in Israel and that his/her parents entered the country legally. However, the families must submit their residency request no later than the end of March 2006 and the children must be ten years old at the time of submission). The court’s intervention was in response to the petition submitted by ACRI Attorney Michal Pinchuk in the name of ACRI and the Hotline for Migrant Workers.

The government’s decision of last June was taken on the basis of erroneous figures that were presented to government ministers by the Population Registrar, according to which, the decision, if accepted, would apply to 2,750 children who are defined as living in distressing circumstances. The outgoing Minister of the Interior, Ophir Penis Paz, already publicly stated that Ministry employees exaggerated the figures in order to thwart the decision. Up until the issuance of the court’s interim injunction, that permitted children who did not comply with the criteria to submit residency requests, only 140 children and their families had done so. Not all the requests received positive responses. According to figures gathered by the Ministry of Education and the Knesset’s Research and Information Center, even if the criteria are relaxed as demanded by the worker’s hotline and ACRI, only three hundred more children will be entitled to residency status.

The ceremony provided the State of Israel with an opportunity to present a false reality, in which, allegedly, the status of all children of migrant workers has been formalized. Even during the ceremony, which was seemingly designed as a media showcase, the Spokeswomen for the Ministry of the Interior announced to the press that up to a day before it was held that no clear information had been communicated to the families as to its nature.

It is hard to ignore the feeling that apart from this extremely important step of granting formal residency status to a small number of children and their families, the state is trying to soften public opinion and prepare the way for a campaign of unprecedented expulsions and detentions of minors and their families who do not comply with the aforementioned rigid criteria.

last updated : 04/01/06

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Categories: Child Rights, Citizenship and Residency, Democracy and Civil Liberties, The Right to Equality, Women's Rights

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