foreign workers children 248.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy of 'Israeli Children')
The battle to stop the deportation of 1,200 children of illegal foreign workers continues, despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's announcement last week that the children and their families can stay in the country an additional three months.
Protests took place in Tel Aviv on Saturday and in Jerusalem on Sunday calling for a permanent solution to the problem. On Sunday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai convened a meeting with the heads of the Immigration Authority and the Oz enforcement unit to discuss how to proceed with the crackdown on illegal migrants and their employers.
More than a thousand people attended a demonstration in Levinski Park in Tel Aviv on Saturday.
The demonstrators included foreign workers, human rights activists, children from the Scouts youth movement and members of Knesset, who held hands and formed a human chain that stretched all around the park.
The protesters held signs and shouted slogans calling for an end to the deportation of children and their families and asking Netanyahu to make the three months' deferment permanent.
As the demonstration was reaching its end, inspectors from the Oz unit burst on the scene and took 10 people into custody. According to Sigal Rozen from the Migrant Workers Hotline, the inspectors used force while arresting the foreign workers and called the police to arrest the Israeli protesters who sat in the road and blocked the bus carrying the foreign workers away.
On Sunday, 40 children who were born in Israel to migrant workers attended a demonstration outside the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. It was organized by the group Israeli Children.
During the meeting, the children read out letters written by both Israeli Jewish and foreign children asking Netanyahu to explain why their friends would be leaving them.
"We approve of Netanyahu's humane decision to postpone the expulsion, but it's not enough for us," said Rotem Ilan from Israeli Children.
"As long as their status is unsettled, these children continue to live under constant fear that tomorrow they will be torn away from their homeland."
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman, both came out of the meeting to greet the children.
Braverman received a bundle with 100 letters, written by both Jewish and foreign children, begging Netanyahu to stop the planned deportation.
Both ministers have expressed opposition to the expulsion in the past and Sa'ar has proposed letting all children between the ages of 3-18 and their families remain in the country permanently.
"The decision to postpone the deportation of children came as a result of a lack of policy on what to with the children of illegal migrants. In cases where there are no social problems, the system is carrying on as usual," said Ro'i Lachmanovich, Yishai's spokesman.
Lachmanovich added that during Sunday's meeting at the Interior Ministry officials discussed possible measures to take against those who employ illegal workers, including possible legislative steps.
When asked whether any steps would be taken to reduce the number of workers entering the country, Lachmanovich responded: "The Israeli government's policy is to remove illegal foreign workers from the country. It harms the demographic fabric and it harms employment. That is our current goal."
Lachmanovich also said the Interior Ministry would be creating a registry of foreign workers who would be allowed to temporarily stay in the country due to the postponement, so that Oz inspectors can identify and release them if they are spotted in the street or during a raid.