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Israel court rejects Filipina mother's appeal against deportation

An Israeli court has rejected an appeal by a Filipina mother-of-two against her and her children's deportation, giving the family 45 days to leave the country.

Geraldine Esta, a Filipina worker whose children – ten-year-old Kiyan and five-year-old Katherine – were born and raised in Israel, was one of scores of Filipinos rounded up by Israel's immigration authorities last week.

Officials arrested the family from their home in Ramat Gan, east of Tel Aviv, and transferred them to a prison in Beit Dagan, next to Israel's Ben Gurion Airport. Photos of the deportation showed Esta surrounded by uniformed officials as she tearfully carried her daughter – clutching a doll and sucking a pacifier – out of their house.

Yesterday the Tel Aviv Appellate Court rejected Esta's appeal against her family's deportation, giving them 45 days to leave Israel. The court also agreed to release them on a 15,000 shekel ($4,285) bail "in order to provide them with the opportunity to settle their affairs before their departure, to say goodbye to friends and acquaintances".

The attorney representing the family, Haya Mena, said she would appeal the decision at Tel Aviv District Court.

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Esta's ordeal has been seen as a test case for other migrant workers living in Israel. According to Israeli advocacy organisation "the Hotline for Migrant Workers", some 60,000 foreign caregivers are currently employed in Israel, half of whom are from the Philippines, while smaller numbers hail from Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Moldova.

However, the children of migrant workers born in Israel are not granted Israeli citizenship. Therefore when their parents' work visas expire, they are at risk of being forced to "return" to their "home" country. Having been born and raised in Israel and attended Israeli schools, in most cases these children know no other home. Many speak Hebrew as their first language and cannot speak the local language of their parents' country.

Israel has seen large-scale protests against the deportations, many of which have focused on the Esta family's plight. Another Filipina worker, Ofresina Koanka, and her 12-year-old son, Michael James, were last week arrested at their home in central Israel and detained near the airport.

Protesters gathered in Jerusalem outside the prime minister's residence to protest their detention, with demonstrators holding placards with photos of the mother and son and the words: "Stop the deportation of Michael James".

On Sunday an Israeli custody tribunal judge ordered that the mother and son be released in advance of their deportation hearing, criticising the authorities' handling of the case and noting there had been "substantial defects in the hearing process and in the decision-making in their matter".

Michael James has learning difficulties and was due to be enrolled on a special education programme in the next academic year, leading to concerns over his ability to integrate into the Philippines and learn the local language if he is deported.

In his ruling, Judge Raja Marzouk cited professional opinions describing Michael James' emotional, cognitive and medical problems and stated that his "continued detention would disproportionately harm the detainees' liberty" and "inflict medical damage that at this stage does not serve the purpose of detention".

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