Israel is to deport at least 100 migrant workers from the Philippines and their Israel-born children.
Israel grants visas to a quota of foreign workers every year, many of whom are women from the Philippines who work as caregivers. Israeli law states that a migrant worker is entitled to remain in the country with her baby until her visa expires, but the child is not granted Israeli citizenship.
Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority has now handed scores of Filipina women and their children deportation papers, requiring them to leave the country next month. Though the authority claims that “these are foreign nationals who’ve been here illegally for a long time, without any legal status,” according to an Haaretz report today the women’s visas “were not renewed because they gave birth [in Israel]”.
Haaretz estimates there are 1,478 children of foreign workers in Israel’s schools; all were born in Israel, while many speak Hebrew as their first language and have never been to the Philippines. Although the mothers have asked that they be allowed to remain in Israel long enough for their children to finish school, authorities plan to press ahead with the deportations.
Though the Immigration Authority claims that “a few dozen” people will be affected by the order, “the Filipino community in Israel estimates that the actual number will be larger”.
On Tuesday, Filipina mothers and their children demonstrated outside the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in protest against the planned deportation. Many of the children carried placards saying: “I grew up here, I dream in Hebrew”; “Why do you want to deport me?”; “Israel is my home, let me stay.”
Israel has been pursuing such deportations for months. In February, an Haaretz investigation found that the same Immigration Authority had arrested at least 18 mothers since October 2018 ahead of their deportation.
Though officials denied any policy change, Filipino community leaders, social activists and staff members from the Bialik-Rogozin school in south Tel Aviv – where many of the children study – said there “had barely been any such deportations of Filipino workers and their children for years until the recent uptick”.
Israel has also imprisoned the migrant workers’ children ahead of deportation. Four of the mothers arrested in February were sent to Givon Prison – near Ramla (Ramleh) in central Israel – with their children, two of whom were four-years-old, one nine-years-old and another 12-years-old.
Filipinos are not the only minority community in Israel targeted by such deportation practices. Israel also hosts a number of asylum seekers, many of whom originate from war-torn Eritrea and Sudan and also largely live in south Tel Aviv.
Israel has repeatedly tried to rid itself of these communities, with Israel Hayom in October 2017 revealing that Netanyahu had signed a deal with a “third country” that would allow their forcibly deportation. Rumours quickly surfaced that Rwanda was the “third country” – a claim it vehemently denied – while commentators suggested the deal formed part of a wider agreement which would see the east African country granted Israeli arms in return for taking its forcibly-displaced asylum seekers.
In January 2018, Israel issued a notice for thousands of African asylum seekers to leave the country or face imprisonment. By March, under huge pressure from the international community and the UN’s refugee agencies, Israel’s Supreme Court cancelled the deportation scheme. Many of those asylum seekers it had planned to deport remained in Israeli prisons throughout the spring, some of whom were finally released in April of that year.