Though the Interior Ministry has announced that after the High Holy Days it will
begin deporting foreign worker families whose children failed to meet the
government’s criteria for residency status, don’t expect to see images of
children escorted onto planes any time soon.
In an exclusive interview
with The Jerusalem Post, Yossi Edelstein, in charge of foreigners affairs in the
Interior Ministry, said that nobody had plans to hunt down children.
'I wouldn't leave one illegal family in Israel
Peres: Let foreign workers' kids stay
30-day grace period that the government granted for the foreign workers to
submit applications on behalf of their children to stay has been over for a
week, but you don’t see me standing with a stopwatch and ready to chase anybody
down,” Edelstein said. “I have the addresses of nearly 100 families of people
who submitted applications but were automatically refused because they couldn’t
meet the threshold, but you don’t see me knocking on their
Edelstein is responsible for all the ministry’s apparatus that
deal with illegal residents, among them the Oz immigration police unit, the
agency mandated with reducing the number of illegals in Israel.
the interministerial committee that recommended the criteria for which children
would be granted indefinite residency and which would be deported. He is at the
heart of the public debate raging on the issue.
According to Edelstein,
in the month that has passed since the cabinet’s decision on the children, his
office has received more than 700 applications submitted by illegal aliens on
behalf of their children, asking to remain in Israel.
“We conducted an
initial filtering process on the spot, which resulted in nearly 100 being
rejected for failing to meet the minimal thresholds.
All the rest are
currently under review. We will examine every application carefully and call in
every applicant for an interview to help clear up any questions and tie up loose
ends. So far 60 families have been in for interviews. Once a decision is made in
an applicant’s case, they will be notified and instructed on how to proceed.
Those who didn’t submit an application are not part of the project and are
subject to deportation.”
Edelstein said he sees it as his responsibility
to carry out the government’s decisions, even if they are unpopular, but when it
comes to talking about the deportation of children, he sounded genuinely
“Everybody keeps talking about the children, but the children are
not the real issue here. The children have parents and their parents are illegal
aliens. Nobody wants any harm to come to the children, that’s why we set out the
criteria and that’s why hundreds are being allowed to stay, but the children
cannot be separated from the parents and, like it or not, their parents broke
the law, their parents are subject to deportation and they must leave with
Edelstein said he wished that it wouldn’t come to deportation and
that all the illegal residents would come forth and voluntarily agree to leave
the country. To increase the likelihood of that happening, his office offers
incentives for people to come forward.
“We have stated in the past and
next week we’ll publish another announcement informing the illegal residents
that anybody who agrees to leave voluntarily will be given assistance. We are
offering them airline tickets to their country of origin. We pledge to assist
them in obtaining any documents they may need from the Israeli authorities. We
will coordinate with their nations’ consulates to assist them. We will even
grant subsidies for shipping cargo,” Edelstein said. “All I ask is that they
honor the government’s decision and obey the law.”
The reason Israelis
won’t be seeing images of children hauled off to deportation hearings or placed
on planes any time soon is that by losing the temporary protection they had
during the application period, the children and their families are joining a
population of illegal residents roughly the size of the population of Petah
Tikva, Netanya or Holon.
Israel is home to nearly 200,000 illegal
residents, and since Edelstein said he won’t be going after families in
particular, it is safe to assume that among the thousands of others, the
children and their families will enjoy relative safety from
The Oz unit is the agency charged with locating,
apprehending and processing illegal aliens before their deportation.
it was established, slightly over a year ago, it was hoped that it could start
reducing the number of illegal aliens in a substantial way, with a mandate to
deport all illegal aliens by the end of 2013. Today that goal seems
unattainable. There has been a slight decrease in the numbers of people in the
country illegally, but more arrive every day.
When asked what assured him
that the government wouldn’t grant more children of foreign workers
residency status every few years, Edelstein sighed.
“I sincerely hope
that we won’t see the wheel turn around again. The government has to
its decision fully. It decided that this would be a one-time measure,
and it has
to stick to it. In 2006 the government reached a similar decision but
stick to its guns, and the result is this round of children. Unless the
decides on a new immigration policy allowing everyone who comes to stay,
needs to better enforce its decisions. Otherwise, this will repeat