Court delays deportation of 12 foreign workers' children

"These are not terrorists," says lawyer. "All they want is the right to appeal"; Judge says "impossible to determine petition's chances."

November 12, 2010 03:33
3 minute read.
Foreign Workers' kids at a protest in Tel Aviv

foreign workers' kids 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The Tel Aviv District Court granted on Wednesday a temporary injunction against the Interior Ministry, forbidding it to deport 12 children of foreign workers until it is determined whether they are eligible to go before the ministry’s exceptions committee and possibly avoid being expelled together with their families.

The children are all represented by attorney Osnat Cohen-Lifshitz, legal council for the Migrant Workers Hotline, who filed the petitions on their behalf.

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District Court Judge Dr. Kobi Vardi wrote in his decision that “At this stage it is impossible to determine the petition’s chances and to determine whether the petitioners can be defined as ‘borderline cases,’ whose cases, according to a cabinet decision, are to be debated on an individual basis, upon consultation with the members of the professional inter-ministerial committee.

The plaintiffs claim that the said mechanism should have been used and the children should not have been refused out of hand.

“Taking into account the importance of the matter, in that the plaintiffs have been in the country for a long time and that the plaintiff is a five-year-old child, the balance of convenience leans in favor of granting the request and that the plaintiff’s issues be debated as part of the petition and not effectively decided by the temporary injunction,” the judge wrote.

While the temporary injunction does not signify a ruling in the children’s favor, it does mean that they can stay in Israel for the duration of the trial and protects them and their family members from arrest and deportation by immigration officials.

The petition focuses on the question of whether children who met some, but not all of the government’s criteria for granting them permanent status as presented in its August 1 decision, were entitled to go before a special exceptions committee, which was mandated in the same decision. The children in question are among the approximately 400 children who failed to meet the government’s criteria, which allowed about 800 to stay.

The state claims that all the criteria set forth by the government are the minimum required threshold that an applicant must meet to even be considered for permanent status. The plaintiffs argue that the government specifically ordered the formation of an exceptions committee for borderline cases and that the 12 children represented in the petitions ought to be brought before the committee.

In total, the Migrant Workers Hotline issued petitions on behalf of 28 children and their families whose applications for permanent status were automatically refused for failing to meet all of the criteria. The 12 children who the court’s decision referred to are all children who failed to meet the criteria of age.

The government’s decision stated that all those whose applications would be considered had to be above the age of six and registered in first grade or higher. The children in question are all below the age of six, though some by only several days or weeks.

In its response to the petition, the state claimed that the foreign workers would abuse the temporary injunction, claiming that, based on past experience, the workers would use it as an excuse to prolong proceedings and then request to be given additional time to stay until the end of the school year, thus harming the public interest.

Cohen-Lifshitz scoffed at the government’s reasoning.

“The state said in its response that the government’s decision was made to protect the Israeli public and maintain the state’s character and if they weren’t deported it would endanger the state. These are children, not terrorists. All they want is to exercise their right to appeal the Interior Ministry’s decision,” said Cohen-Lifshitz.

“The state is not willing to discuss the possibility of the children going before an exceptions committee. To this day, we don’t even know if the committee is in place and operating. We have yet to hear of a single applicant whose case was called before it. We hope to convince the judge that the children should have a chance to go before the committee and make their case.”

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