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Filipino mother, 11-month-old expelled amid crackdown on visa-less workers

The Times of Israel, Israel, 29 July 2019 - Immigration authorities say woman arrived 13 years ago but stayed beyond permit; officials detain another family ahead of removing them from country

A Filipino woman, who had illegally remained to work in Israel after her visa expired, was sent home overnight along with her 11-month-old baby, immigration authorities announced Monday.

The deportation of foreign workers, whether by agreement or forced, has faced criticism due to the impact it can have on their children who are born in the country, some of whom spend years in the Israeli system.

The Interior Ministry’s Population Immigration and Border Authority said the care worker had arrived in Israel 13 years ago and was granted a fixed-term work visa but then stayed on illegally after it expired.

Authorities said the mother agreed to leave the country with her daughter.

The woman and her baby were detained last week in the central city of Petah Tikvah. The Philippine consul visited her while she was being held and she was issued a passport enabling her to be flown back to her home country.

A second foreign worker family was arrested Monday morning, PIBA said. The family — a Filipino woman, her Turkish husband and their two children, aged 2 and 3 — were arrested in their home in south Tel Aviv. They were taken for a hearing ahead of being transferred to a holding facility in Ben Gurion Airport from which they can be flown out of the country.

“These are foreign nationals who have been living in Israel for a very long time, against the law and without any status,” PIBA said in a statement. The authority said that both the Filipino mothers had been arrested earlier in the year but, out of consideration for their circumstances, were allowed to remain in the country while their children finished the year in kindergarten. The foreigners were to leave voluntarily, PIBA noted, rather that being formally deported.

The developments came after on Sunday an Immigration Detention Review Tribunal considered two other high-profile cases involving foreign workers facing expulsion against their will.

The tribunal agreed to release from lockup a Filipino worker and her learning disabled son, who are in the country illegally, until the Interior Ministry has provided a final response to their request to remain in Israel on humanitarian grounds.

Ofrecina (Precy) Koanka and her 12-year-old son Michael James, known as MJ, were arrested last week.

The Israel-born Michael studies in a special education program and was slated to begin seventh grade in the fall. According to an appeal filed by the family’s attorney, Michael’s learning disability means that he will be unable to learn a new language if deported.

The tribunal also reviewed the case of Filipino Geraldine Esta and her two children, 10-year-old Khean and 5-year-old Kathryn, whom immigration agents have also incarcerated prior to deportation to the Philippines.

Lawyer and Ramat Gan council member Haya Mena sought to have the deportation order against the Estas quashed and permission given to the family to remain in Israel, also for humanitarian reasons.

Judge Ilan Halabaga asked the state to explain how its decision to detain and deport the families was in the best interests of the children, who were born and brought up in Israel.

Lawyer Shiran Tourjeman, representing the state, responded that the families were not obliged to remain in detention. They were free to leave the country and could lodge their appeals to remain in Israel once they reached the Philippines, she said.

It was not clear when the judge would release his decision on the Estas.

The Koanka and Esta cases are seen as tests for dozens of other Israeli-born children of illegal foreign workers who have grown up in the Jewish state, call it home and are now facing deportation.

Many female foreign workers who are still in the country illegally fall foul of regulations according to which foreign workers who become pregnant must send their babies home or they else cannot renew their visas and face arrest if they do not leave the country of their own accord.

Many stay on, doing menial jobs, to give their children a better life than they would get in the Philippines.

Several public figures have come out against the deportations.

Some 60,000 foreign caregivers — most of them women — are currently employed in Israel, according to the Hotline for Migrant Workers, an advocacy and rights organization. Half of them are from the Philippines, with much smaller numbers from Nepal (15 percent), India, Sri Lanka and Moldova (10% each) and the rest from various Eastern European countries.

So far this year 36 illegal caregivers with Israeli-born children have signed deportation notices promising to go home between July 15 and August 1, of which 25 are Filipino, two are Nepalese, one is from India and one is from Moldova.




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