Head of Oz deportation unit quits
Head of Oz deportation u
oz unit inspector 248.88 Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
Tziki Sela, the man in charge of the deportation of illegal migrants, quit his job as commander of the Oz Immigration Authority on Tuesday.
Sela, who created the new unit six months ago, said he had done all he could to get it working on the right track and that it was time for him to move on.
"I was called to the flag with the goal of serving the State of Israel and laid strong foundations for the Oz unit, which does important work on both the private and national level. At this stage I feel I've given the unit all I can and want to pursue other professional avenues in the private sector," he said.
Sela's announcement came a day after a ministerial committee charged with finding a permanent solution for the 1,200 children of foreign workers scheduled for deportation, released statements indicating that the solution would be to expel the children in eight months, once the school year is over.
Government ministers, MKs and human rights activists expressed anger and dismay at the statements that came out of Monday's meeting.
Though the Prime Minister's Office has said that the decision is not final, opponents of the plan wasted no time coming out against it. About a hundred people demonstrated against the decision in Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening.
"The government needs to reach a conclusive decision regarding these children, and I suggest that we find a solution whereby they can stay," Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor) said.
"I've met with these children, they are completely Israeli. They study with Israeli children, they want to enlist in the army, they are just like all the other children. The problem is the precedent. I believe that by employing bright and resourceful lawyers we will find a way to allow them to stay without it being binding for the future. All in all we're talking about 1,200 children and 600 parents. I think the government should make the conscientious decision," he said.
Braverman also warned of international public opinion that would rise against Israeli if the children are deported. "If it bothers so many people here in Israel that they take the time out of their lives to demonstrate against it, you can only imagine what the world will say."
He was clear that the solution he was talking about was only in regard to the children of foreign workers who were born in Israel.
"As for the rest, I agree with the government's policy of removing the illegal workers who take up jobs that should go to Israelis," Braverman said. Granting permanent residency to the 1,200 children would be a one-off action and that in future cases expulsion should be immediate, he said.
Braverman said he took his suggestion to Labor chairman Ehud Barak and faction head Daniel Ben-Simon, who agreed to hold a discussion on the topic during the faction meeting next Monday.
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) also came out against the ministerial committee's suggestion. She told reporters that if the committee voted for the children's deportation, she would appeal to the prime minister.
"It is impossible to accept a situation whereby children, for whom Israeli is the only home they've ever known, spend their days fearful and in hiding from the immigration authorities instead of being in schools and playgrounds," Livnat said.
Other ministers who have expressed disappointment with the committee's decision are Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) and Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor), who are members of the ministerial committee.
Opposition lawmakers also took advantage of the unpopular decision and attacked the government for being inhumane.
"The apparent decision is inhumane, cruel and goes against Jewish morality," Kadima MK Nachman Shai said. "I call on the government to be magnanimous and humane and absorb this tiny community in Israel."
"These children are Israelis for all intents and purposes and we should stop pursuing them like criminals," Meretz MK Nitzan Horovitz said.
Human and workers rights organization are condemning the committee's statements and calling for an invigorated public campaign.
"The deferral of the decision on the fate of the children leaves them in terror and uncertainty. We will not allow the children to be deported just so people will be able to continue profiteering off bringing new immigrants in through the back door. The state brought their parents here and must take responsibility for its actions. The children will not pay the price for ongoing failures," the Israeli Children NGO said in a statement.
Representatives of the Migrant Worker's Hotline raised similar points.
"The decision to expel the children appears completely unreasonable, especially since thousands more immigrants continue to be brought in by the very same government that wants to arrest and deport the children," the group said.
Speaking at a Galilee conference on Tuesday, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said that the continuing effort to expel illegal workers is "not only a Zionistic battle, but a battle against unemployment and rising income gaps. We will continue these actions because the poor of your town come first."
"There will not be a reduction in unemployment and income gaps as long as there are 400,000 African workers competing with low income Israelis for jobs," Steinitz said.