Social workers attempt to ease foreign workers’ pain

With the deportation of hundreds of foreign workers' children imminent, social welfare services has been enlisted to help with the trauma.

October 4, 2010 05:13
2 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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In an attempt to alleviate what is likely to be an extremely traumatic period for hundreds of foreign workers and children threatened with imminent deportation, the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority has turned to the country’s social welfare services for guidance in softening the blow, The Jerusalem Post learned Sunday.

“They approached us on the eve of Succot and asked for help in dealing with the matter, which will clearly not be straight forward and will be very traumatic,” Nachum Itzkovitz, the director-general of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, told the Post in an interview.

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“I must make it clear however, that we will not be involved in any of the direct activities concerning the deportations of these children or their families,” he said.

Rather, Itzkovitz said that the social welfare services will assist in a humanitarian way, sharing their professional know-how and tools for people facing trauma.

“At this point we do not have enough information to say how we will do this exactly but we are in the process of appointing a professional committee that will research more on what we can do,” he added.

Itzkovitz said that currently the social services are involved in only a minimal way in assisting the thousands of foreign workers that reside in Israel, whether they are here legally or illegally.

“Sometimes we deal with domestic violence problems or children at risk, where we will take in the victim[s] and help them,” he said, highlighting that it is not the direct responsibility of the social welfare services to deal with those who are not citizens.

Last month, officials at the Interior Ministry said that immediately after the High Holy Days it would begin enforcing deportation procedures against those who have had been denied permanent residency.

However, in an interview with the Post two weeks ago, Yossi Edelstein, head of the Foreigners Affairs Department in the Interior Ministry, said that large scale deportations of children or foreign workers would not happen in the immediate future.

“The 30-day grace period that the government granted 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 in that interview.

“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 doors.”

Edelstein said that since the cabinet decision to deport children of foreign workers here illegally, his office had received more than 700 applications from illegal aliens on behalf of their children, asking to remain in Israel.

According to previous figures from the Interior Ministry, less than 90,000 migrant workers out of more than 300,000 foreigners in Israel today have the right to work here legally. Those employed as caregivers – mainly from the Philippines or Nepal – can extend their visas for as long as they are needed but all others (agricultural and construction workers) must leave as soon as their permits end.

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