'20,000 children in Israel illegally'

Yishai: Kids pose larger threat to Jewish state than perceived.

August 20, 2010 14:29
1 minute read.
Children of foreign workers climb a metal bookcase in Tel Aviv as their parents meet .

311_foreign workers' kids. (photo credit: Ariel Schalit/AP)


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The number of illegal migrants' children living in Israel in violation of immigration laws is in the tens of thousands, not hundreds as is commonly perceived, Interior Minister Eli Yishai told Israel Radio on Friday.

The number of children illegally residing in Israel exceeds 20,000, Yishai's office said in a statement released after the interview. Six thousand of the children are between the ages of one and five and 14,000 are between the ages of six and seventeen. Yishai used these numbers as a justification for his position that the government should expel all illegal migrant children and their families from Israel, instead of granting legal status to those who meet certain criteria, emphasizing their threat to the Jewish character of the state.

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Yishai complained of a "lynch" against him, due to the planned deportation of foreign workers and their children, in an interview last week with Army Radio.

"I am not against the children, I am against their parents, who are taking advantage of our good hearts," he said.

The Shas chairman has been on the receiving end of much of the criticism hurled toward the government, by human rights groups, for its decision to deport approximately 400 children of foreign workers and their families while allowing around 800 to remain. The move, which will see those children who don’t meet the government’s criteria leave within weeks, has been characterized by some, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, as inhumane and un-Jewish.

"If we were dealing with refugees, I would accept them and let them stay," the minister explained. "But we are talking about people looking for work; people who are taking advantage of the good-hearted nature of the Jewish people."

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