search

Court hearings to resume for dozens of Filipino carers, kids facing deportation

After COVID-19 halts hearings for 39 families without legal status, including many Israeli-born children, Tel Aviv court to restart proceedings on June 15

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Filipino workers and their children protest against their their imminent deportation outside Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on June 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Filipino workers and their children protest against their their imminent deportation outside Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on June 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Court hearings for 39 mainly Filipino families issued with deportation orders will start in Tel Aviv on June 15, after a nearly two-year hiatus, much of it due to  COVID-19-related postponements.

“Everything stopped during coronavirus,” said a spokesman for United Children of Israel, an organization set up by Filipino mothers and their Israeli supporters to fight deportations. “Families that were arrested were bailed out. Since the last, third lockdown, most of them are reporting regularly to the office of the Population and Immigration Authority.”

Of the 39 families, most are Filipino, with others from India, Nigeria and Ghana.

The issue dominated the headlines in 2019 as immigration officials staged dawn raids on homes and video footage showed tearful and bewildered mothers and children having to pack up their belongings before being driven off to lock-ups close to Ben Gurion Airport.

הסתיים הדיון בבית הדין לעררים בשאלת גירושם של קיאן (10), קתרין (5) ואמם ג'רלדין. עורכת הדין חיה מנע, המייצגת את המשפחה,…

Posted by UCI United Children of Israel on Sunday, July 28, 2019

Schoolfriends and their parents staged multiple protests and many public figures signaled their support.

Posted by UCI United Children of Israel on Sunday, July 28, 2019

The spokesperson said that families under threat of deportation number less than 2,000 individuals, including more than 1,000 children, the oldest of whom is 16.

“We want citizenship for the kids that were born here and for their parents, who came here legally, who have really served the people of this country,” the spokesperson said.

A Filipino caretaker at a promenade in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
A Filipino caretaker at a promenade in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

As of December 2020, 55,705 foreign careworkers resided legally in Israel, according to government statistics (in Hebrew), with 13,251 doing so illegally. Of the legal ones, the main nationalities were Filipino (36%), Indian (24%) and Moldovan (13%).

From 2017 to 2019, 409 Filipinos were deported, with just 37 in 2020, the coronavirus year. During those same four years, 869 left “of their own accord.”

All of these carers were originally sought out by the Israeli authorities to look after a growing population of elderly people, who, with medical advances, are living longer. They entered the country legally, often paying massive illegal brokerage fees for the privilege.

Foreign workers who become pregnant must send their babies home or else they cannot renew their visas and face arrest if they do not leave the country of their own accord.

Many women in this position have stayed on, illegally, doing menial jobs, to give their children a better life than they would get in the Philippines.

Their children have grown up as Israelis.

Foreign workers, their children and supporters take part in a protest against the deportation of the children of Filipino workers in Tel Aviv, on August 6, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

In 2006 and 2009, the Interior Ministry threatened to deport hundreds of Israeli-born children whose Filipino parents had overstayed their work visas. A huge public outcry led to a 2010 “humanitarian decision” to allow around 1,000 school-aged children, born up to 2004, to stay. Most of these have gone on to serve in the Israeli army and to get Israeli citizenship.

Although there was no change to the law, the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Borders Authority largely honored that decision for nine years.

Mika and Maureen Velasco being arrested in August 2020 (United Children of Israel, courtesy)

Then, in spring 2019, immigration officials started notifying caregivers whose visas had run out that they were slated for deportation.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed