1,200 children face deportation

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai has said he will not grant legal status to some 1,200 children of migrant workers, triggering an anti-deportation campaign led by several NGOs.

The 1,200 are not included in the 2006 government scheme that granted legal status to over 600 children of migrant workers.


“Their parents are using them to gain legal status in Israel… If we do not deport them, migrant workers will continue to exploit the kindness of the state of Israel,” Yishai said.


A clause in most migrant workers’ contracts forbids them from having children in Israel and says pregnant women must leave the country. Many NGOs say the clause is inhumane and draconian.


Nevertheless, an estimated 2,000 children of migrants were said to have been born in the past decade in Israel, according to the Tel Aviv Education Authority.


Some 250 families face deportation along with hundreds of children born in the past three years in Israel, according to activists campaigning for migrants’ rights.


In July, OZ (the new immigration enforcement unit) launched an operation aimed at deporting nearly 300,000 illegal migrants and visa violators, according to Tziki Sela, head of OZ in Israel’s Immigration Authority.


Criticism by some members of parliament, and religious and community leaders, forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone the deportation of families of migrant foreign workers with children: Due to begin on 1 August, it was halted for three months.


Meanwhile, an official OZ report seen by IRIN on 21 October said 700 migrant workers without children had been deported since 1 June 2009, and 2,000 had "left willingly".


On 12 October, a parliament committee on migrant workers decided to start deporting children by the middle of 2010 when schools close.

Anti-deportation campaign


Deportations are set to take place despite a "massive" (according to top Israeli officials) anti-deportation campaign led by several NGOs and aid organizations, including Moked, the hotline for migrant workers.


Karen Tal, manager of the Bialik-Rogozin public school in southern Tel Aviv, told reporters some 302 children in the school (out of 784) are up for deportation if Yishai does not change his mind. Tal spoke about the hardships and uncertainty faced by the children since June, when the intention to deport them was revealed.


Sources in the Immigration Authority and the OZ unit told IRIN they had no intention of operating within schools despite the relative ease of detaining children and parents there.