SARA NETANYAHU meets with four-year-old Ofek Castillo311.
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
The Tel Aviv District Court judge on Tuesday delayed the deportation order of a
fouryear- old Filipino girl, moments before she and her mother were set to take
off from Ben-Gurion Airport.
The girl, Ofek Castillo, was born in Israel
and was arrested with her mother, Nancy, on Tuesday morning in Tel Aviv and
taken to a holding facility at Ben-Gurion.
Noa Galili, spokesman of the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel, who issued the petition along with the
organization “Israeli Children,” said the court order was carried out at the
very last possible moment.
“They were in the plane on the runway and the
mother called us and we managed to speak to the stewardess and the pilot and
prevent them from taking off.”
According to Galili, the court order only
calls for a re-examination of the case, and does not rule out a future
Castillo was born in Israel and was enrolled in a state-run
daycare facility but did not meet criteria that would allow her to stay in
Israel. According to a cabinet decision made last August, children of foreign
workers who did not meet a series of criteria would face
These criteria stipulate that the child studied during the
past school year in an Israeli state school, is enrolled for the next year in
first grade or higher, has lived for five consecutive years in Israel, was born
in Israel or arrived before age 13.
The child’s parents must also have
entered Israel on a valid work visa, and the child must speak Hebrew. Around 400
of the estimated 1,200 children of foreign workers in Israel do not meet the
criteria to stay in the country.
The case also tugged on Sara Netanyahu’s
heartstrings, inspiring her to write a personal letter to Interior Minister Eli
Yishai (Shas) on Tuesday requesting that he stop the deportation of the girl.
Netanyahu met with the girl on Wednesday in Jerusalem at the Prime Minister’s
In the letter sent to Yishai, she wrote “this is a child who
was born and educated in Israel. Her first language is Hebrew.
alone with her mother in Tel Aviv, studied in a day school in the heart of Tel
Aviv, and expects to begin the new school year with her friends here. She is
slated for deportation to the Philippines, her country of origin, but a place
she has never once visited.”
The prime minister’s wife also wrote that
she believes the deportation could lead to great psychological trauma for Ofek.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu met with the young girl.
This March, Yishai
announced the government will delay the deportation of children enrolled in
state-run kindergartens and day schools. The Population, Immigration and Borders
Authority said the decision did not apply to children who did not meet those
According to PIBA spokesman Sabine Haddad, the decision to
arrest the girl and her mother is not new, in spite of media reports that it was
an unprecedented move.
“So far there have been dozens of children who
were born in Israel that have been deported under the state criteria.
child in question was not in a staterun compulsory kindergarten and was not even
in a state-run preschool. Not only is she not a borderline case, she is far from
being on the borderline of meeting the state criteria to stay.”
added that PIBA has not deported anyone who is enrolled in state-run
kindergarten because they are too “borderline” to the state’s own criteria, but
that they would continue to carry out the cabinet decision.