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4-year-old Israeli child killed by mortar fire in Nahal Oz
Israel to deport 400 children of migrant workers
Published Wednesday 04/08/2010 (updated) 15/08/2010 12:03
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By Mya Guarnieri

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- After a year-long battle over the fate of 1,200 children of undocumented migrant workers, the Israeli cabinet has finalized plans that will lead to the deportation of at least 400 minors along with their parents.

The government also approved criteria that would make approximately 800 of the children eligible for naturalization. Children must have studied in the state school system the past academic year and be registered for first grade or higher, they must have been in Israel for at least five consecutive years, they must have been born here or arrived before the age of 13, they must speak fluent Hebrew, and their parents must have arrived on a valid work visa.

Families who are eligible to stay in Israel have 21 days to file their paperwork. Critics say that this window is too narrow and is likely to lead to the deportation of hundreds of children who are eligible for naturalization but fall through the bureaucratic cracks.

Critics have also pointed out that the strict criteria might lead to the deportation of minors who meet all conditions except for one — such as a child who is repeating kindergarten and is not registered for first grade; the children of parents who worked for embassies; or families who left the country for a short period in the last five years. Also of concern are the now-adult children of migrant workers. A generation born and raised in Israel, this group is ineligible for naturalization simply because they are over the age of 18.

Israel's Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who has been a vociferous proponent of the deportation, will examine the borderline cases.

The struggle began last July, when Israel announced its intention to expel all 1,200 children of undocumented migrant workers. The move, a reversal of Israel's long-held policy against deporting minors, sparked outrage amongst Jewish Israelis and massive protests.

Responding to public pressure, the deportation was delayed until the end of the school year. In the meantime Israel, which has no immigration law for non-Jews, formed a governmental committee to find a "one-time" solution to the matter.

Those who support the children argue that they are Israeli. They were born and raised here, speak Hebrew, attend local schools, and are a part of society.

Yishai, who has backed the plan for deportation despite the fact that the public and many Israeli politicians are against it, says the children are a threat to the Jewish character of the state. He has also stated that migrant workers bring "a profusion of diseases" to Israel.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who has also expressed concern that the children of foreign workers might erode the Jewish identity of Israel — praised the cabinet’s decision to naturalize 800 minors while deporting the rest, calling it “reasonable and balanced.”

Roei Lachmanovich, Yishai's spokesman, remarked on Sunday that the move was not a decision against the children. Rather, it is against the parents who, according to Lachmanovich, are illegal workers that hide behind their children.

But many of the women lost their legal status after they gave birth, as Israeli policy forbids migrant workers from having children in the state — effectively forcing women to choose between keeping their child or their visa.

Israeli policy also forbids migrant workers from getting married.

Migrant workers arrived in Israel in the late 1980s, at the beginning of the First Intifada, to replace Palestinian day laborers. Their population grew steadily throughout the 1990s and boomed in the early 2000s, with the Second Intifada.

The last major crackdown on undocumented migrant workers began in 2002. Immigration police targeted fathers in hopes that their wives would follow them back to their country of origin, taking their children along with them. Instead, many women chose to stay in Israel and a community of single moms took root.

Today, Israel is home to approximately 300,000 migrant workers. Estimates of the number of undocumented workers vary, with some placing it as high as 250,000.

The Israeli government says it aims to reduce the state’s dependency on migrant workers. The government also hopes to clear the country of undocumented laborers. But in 2009, the same year the plans to expel the children were announced, Israel issued a record number of visas to migrant workers. Critics refer to Israel’s simultaneous deportation and importation of workers as the “revolving door” policy.

In the wake of Israel’s decision to expel the children and their families, the United Nation’s Children Fund, UNICEF, issued sharp criticism of this revolving door. Regarding the deportation, UNICEF stated, “The government's policy is a gross violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” pointing out that Israel is a signatory.

Human rights groups and Israeli politicians also slammed the decision. Haim Oron, the head of the leftist Meretz party, called the deportation plan “brutal, random, and regretful.”

In an op-ed for the Israeli daily Haaretz, Yossi Sarid, a former member of Knesset, questioned whether Zionism and humanitarianism can co-exist. Bemoaning the expulsion, calling it “despicable” and “evil,” Sarid wrote, “The fools in the cabinet decided to let 800 children of migrant workers remain in the country — but took the opportunity to deport 400.”

Sarid called on the Israeli public to hide the children in their home: “Let the representatives of the law look for them in the attic, in the basement, in the closets, under the beds; let the authorities tear them from your arms.”
1 ) Anna Morel / USA
04/08/2010 15:58
By many EU, Asian, and Arab country standards,
Israel's policy is QUITE GENEROUS!!

2 ) Julius Moralis / Canada
04/08/2010 19:06
Israel also deported all Jews born in Gaza when it turned over the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority. Abbas also insists on deportation of all Jewish children from the West Bank as a pre-condition to peace talks.

3 ) John / USA
08/08/2010 21:20
2) Yes you are right. A country should not be exclusively for one religion, this is racist. Whether its Saudi Arabia or Israel. Its time to let everyone come home starting with Palestinian refugees.

09/08/2010 02:58
3 ) John / USA

No, let it be Saudi Arabia, that's where the Palestinian Arabs came from in the first place )Arabs = Arabia) get it ?

And when they return home to Saudi Arabia, the Christian's among them should be allowed to build churches and wear their religious symbols in public, homes should be decorated with bright x-mas lights for all to see during the Holiday season
BTW-The children that are being sent to the homes of their parents, which aren't in Israel and has never been

5 ) A / usa
12/08/2010 07:30
Ben Jabo

Great idea and all the Jews can return to Europe, Russia, and NY :)

6 ) John / USA
13/08/2010 00:40
4) You are ignorant, Palestinians are not from Saudi Arabia. Yes, Saudi Arabia should allow freedom of religion for all. I do not agree with what they are doing. Israel is the same, its a Jewish club med. No one else allowed. Both are to be condemned. With your greedy and racist attitude you better enjoy it while you can. 5) Ben is probably a New Yorker.....God help them when he goes back.

15/08/2010 23:09

Give it up already, you don't have the vaguest idea of what you're talking about, I have refuted so many of your posts that it's no longer amusing

Try the following link,just maybe some of the information will penetrate


No wonder your name is John, as I stated before, full of doo doo

16/08/2010 16:05
John /USA

I must admit that you're partially correct

Palestinans' are from ARABIA, not Saudi Arabia, which didn't come into existence until 1932, when it was founded

One thing you should note, when the family is named "Masri", it indicates that came from Egypt, likewise "Baghdadi" is from Iraq
BTW- Arafat was Egyptian

9 ) shay / Ireland/Israel
27/08/2010 17:52
deport Eli Yishai!
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