Over a thousand people marched through central Tel Aviv on Saturday night, calling on the government to cancel the deportation of hundreds of foreign workers and their children, set to take place in the coming months.

Chanting “No children are illegal” and “No more deportations,” the protesters made their way from the Habima national theater to the headquarters of the Interior Ministry, where they held a rally.

They also screened videos of the arrests of foreign workers and their children made by the ministry’s Oz immigration task force. The filmed scenes were met by boos from the crowd.

The rally was held a little over a week after Interior Minister Eli Yishai approved requests for residency permits by 257 foreign workers whose children had been born in Israel. Yishai also ruled that 118 families would face deportation.

He has yet to rule on the status of an additional 260 families.

In August 2010 the cabinet set a series of criteria under which children of foreign workers would be allowed to stay in Israel. Some of the criteria stipulated that the parents had to have entered Israel legally and were living in Israel for over five years, and that the children were enrolled in an Israeli school. The parents of some 700 children who did not automatically meet the criteria lodged appeals, and up until mid-February none had yet received an answer.

Noa Galili, spokeswoman of the NGO Israeli Children, which organized Saturday night’s demonstration, said the protestors were “asking to be allowed to stay and for the government to approve status for all those children who had no other country to go to.”

Parents at the rally, most of whom came with small children in tow, spoke of a feeling of being in limbo. They said they did not know if they and their children would be allowed to stay in Israel or whether they would be forced to leave for a country their children had never seen.

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