400 foreign workers' kids out

Deportation decision slammed by some govt ministers and UNICEF.

August 2, 2010 00:40
A Purim party for foreign workers' children.

migrant workers children 311. (photo credit: Mya Guarnieri)

The cabinet on Sunday adopted the recommendations of the interministerial committee on the deportation of 1,200 children of foreign workers, which means that only about 400 of them will be deported with their families, while the rest will be granted permanent residency.

The decision to adopt the committee’s recommendations passed by a vote of 13-10. Of those who voted against the decision, some, like Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, said they opposed it because it didn’t include enough of the children and others, like Interior Minister Eli Yishai, opposed it because it meant too many could stay.

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“Those who allow these children to stay in Israel, are allowing the parents to pull one over on the State of Israel and stay in the country,” Yishai said.

Several ministers only agreed to ratify the recommendations after Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman introduced changes to the criteria for letting the children stay and resolved technical issues that would make it more difficult for the foreign workers to fulfill the necessary requirements for them to stay.

The children who are allowed to stay must meet several criteria: They must be registered in the Israeli school system.

They must speak Hebrew. They had to have been either born in Israel, or entered before their 13th birthday.

They had to have lived in Israel for at least five consecutive years and the children’s parents had to have entered Israel under a legal permit.

Those who meet the criteria will have 21 days in which to file formal applications to stay from the day the cabinet’s decision is published formally. Those who cannot complete the application process in time will be given an additional 21- day extension to finish it. All applications must include original or notarized birth certificates, the parent’s passports, registration permits from the education system and other official documents.

The parents and siblings of the children who are allowed to stay will be granted temporary residency permits. Barring any new developments prejudicing their status, the child’s family’s permits will be renewed annually until their child turns 21, at which point the other family members may request permanent resident status.

The cabinet also decided that a special appeals committee, headed by Yishai, will be convened for special or borderline applicants.

Applicants who do not meet the criteria will be required to leave Israel within 30 days of the formal publication of the regulations, or the day their application was denied.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the decision to let a majority of the 1,200 children stay struck a balance between the values of Zionism on one hand and humanistic values on the other.

“It calls for allowing those children who have largely become Israelis, who are here, have been educated here, have studied Hebrew and whose identity has already been formed, to stay here,” he said, in an announcement after the cabinet vote.

“On the other hand, it avoids creating an incentive lest hundreds of thousands of labor migrants, over 500,000, flood the country. We are committed to resolving this sensitive issue in a considered and balanced way, even if it may not jibe with momentary fluctuations of public opinion,” said Netanyahu.

The decision on the children’s fate came 11 months after Netanyahu called to delay the families’ expulsion orders. During the ensuing period, a public campaign, led by worker’s rights groups, called on the government to let the children remain in Israel, while the interministerial committee drew up its recommendations.

Sunday’s decision was met with mixed responses. Child advocacy group Israeli Children said they are happy for those who get to stay, but feel sorry for those who don’t meet the criteria.

“We are pleased that justice was done to some of the families.

We still have to make sure that bureaucracy doesn’t prevent those who are eligible from receiving permanent status,” the group said, in a statement.

“At the same time we are sad that some of our friends, whose children are entering [compulsory] kindergarten this year, do not meet the criteria to stay. It is time for Israel to decide on a permanent immigration policy so we don’t reach these nerveracking decisions. The state must remember that every time it brings foreign workers here, it is bringing in human beings,” the statement said.

Physicians for Human Rights Israel said that, “The threat of deportation that hangs over the heads of hundreds of children is a dreadful edict, which we refuse to accept. We will continue to act in order to make sure that all the children receive legal status in Israel and to assure that Israel establish a humane and orderly immigration policy. Adhoc solutions like this one are no replacement for such a policy.”

Meretz chairman Haim Oron issued a statement in which he called the decision “Brutal, random and regretful,” saying it would be better had the government allowed all 1,200 children to stay.

The United Nations Children’s Fund harshly criticized the decision, stating that “The government’s policy constitutes a gross violation of the International Children’s Rights Agreement, which Israel has signed on to.”

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer also criticized the decision, saying “this is not the Jewish state that I know, that expels children from it.

“This is definitely not the right time for Israel to be seen doing something like this,” he added.

This is the second time that the government approved a special status for children of foreign workers. A similar decision was passed by the cabinet in 2005.

In his pre-cabinet meeting address, Netanyahu said that the decision on the issue of the foreign workers was one in a series of steps the government was taking as part of comprehensive migration policy.

Other steps he mentioned were the construction of a barrier fence along the southern border with Egypt to stop African migrants from entering, and the ongoing crackdown on employers who hire illegal foreign workers.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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