Less than 24 hours after the government voted to deport some 400 children of foreign workers, while allowing 800 to stay, children’s advocacy group Israeli Children began making phone calls Monday searching for people who would be willing to provide accommodations to foreign worker families who face deportation.
For the last year, Israeli Children and its director, Rotem Ilan, have been at the forefront of the public campaign opposing the children’s deportation.
The group has organized rallies ranging from dozens to thousands of people, enlisted political support for the cause and, in general, attempted to put a human face to an issue that for many, is a matter of abstract numbers.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post
, Ilan expressed pride that the organization had built up enough pressure on the government so that some 800 children and their families could remain, but at the same time vowed to continue the battle to allow all 1,200 children to stay.
“We will continue doing everything we can so that all the children will be able to stay.
Right now, we are working intensively on providing assistance to those families who do meet the criteria in order to make sure that they have all the paperwork in order to file the applications. It would be a terrible shame if children who meet all the requirements will be deported because of a misplaced document or an incorrectly filled form,” said Ilan.
“At the same time we are looking for Israeli families that can provide the children and their parents who don’t meet the criteria and are subject to deportation, with a semblance of normality in their last days here. We are not seeking to hide the families or break the law in any way, we just think that it’s better for them to be in a comfortable environment, rather than in a cramped apartment in the south of Tel Aviv.
“Besides, we believe that if they are with Israeli citizens, there is a better chance that their rights will be respected. It’s much easier for Oz inspectors to bend the laws when they come at night to the slums of Tel Aviv than in the homes of Israeli citizens.”
Referring to Sunday’s cabinet decision, Ilan said she thought it was absurd that the government was nitpicking over the fate of 400 children and that the smart move would be to let all 1,200 stay.
“All in all we are talking about 1,200 children and their families. When you think about it, it is really a small number, especially compared to the number of foreign workers Israel imports every year, yet the ministers presented it as such a dire threat, a threat to the Jewish character of the country no less, that you’d think that we were talking about hundreds of thousands of people,” said Ilan.
“If the leaders think that the deportation of 400 children is a solution to Israel’s immigration problem, they are fooling themselves and the public. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a gushing wound.
“The only solution is to set up a comprehensive immigration policy and stop importing more foreign workers. It’s ridiculous, In the same meeting that they approved the children’s deportation, they approved the import of 300 new foreign workers from Sri Lanka to work in agriculture.”
Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman has worked closely with Ilan and her organization. Braverman, who is in Holland on a personal visit, surprised many when he voted in favor of the criteria determining which children would be allowed to stay. As someone who has been deeply involved with the fate of the children, it was expected that he would oppose the decision.
In a phone interview with the Post
, Braverman explained that he voted for the decision because he preferred to “ensure ‘the good’ instead of lose out in an attempt to achieve the excellent.
“Whenever I cast a vote in the cabinet, I vote as if my ballot was the decisive one,” he said. “Sure, I could have taken the more popular path and hidden behind the majority.
After all it was clear that the decision would pass, so I could have voted against, but I sincerely believe that ensuring that the majority of the children would stay, was better than opposing the decision and leaving all 1,200 to an uncertain fate.
“I have no doubt that in the current political make-up of the government, we could not have passed a better decision. This one was the most moral and just, even if not the easiest and most popular,” he said.
Braverman pledged he would do everything he could to assist the
children, including arranging extensions for families who had difficulty
in filing the applications to stay, but at the same time made it clear
that the current arrangement would be a one-time deal.
“If I could have it my way, all the children would stay, but it is
impossible that every child who enters the country be given permanent
status; that would just be inviting people to come and give birth here
in an effort to gain citizenship,” he said.
“We have to draw the line somewhere and I believe that the criteria we
voted on yesterday are as close as we can get to the right place. There
are many countries who wouldn’t have let any of them stay at all.”