Court orders delay of Filipino girl's deportation

Sara Netanyahu sent personal appeal to Yishai to stop process; four-year-old girl was arrested with her mother in Tel Aviv.

SARA NETANYAHU meets with four-year-old Ofek Castillo311 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
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 deportation.
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 deportation.
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 Residence.
In the letter sent to Yishai, she wrote “this is a child who was born and educated in Israel. Her first language is Hebrew.
Ofek lived 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 criteria.
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.
The 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.”
Haddad 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.