Israel is detaining half a dozen children of African migrants whose mothers are awaiting deportation, the Maariv newspaper reported on Thursday.
The daily published photos and videos of six children — aged 1 to 7 — who it said are incarcerated with their mothers at the Givon Prison near Ramle.
Marcy, a Nigerian mother who arrived in Israel in 2010, said that she and her four children had been at Givon for over three weeks.
“Nearly a month has passed, but the children aren’t getting used to it,” she told Maariv in tears. “The opposite, it’s becoming harder for them. Every time they play too energetically and go wild, the prison guards tell them: ‘If you make noise, we’ll lock you in your room.’
“It’s not nice, they aren’t free, they know this isn’t home. They ask me all the time when we’re going home and I tell them ‘very soon,'” Marcy said.
“I don’t tell them a specific time because I don’t really know,” she added.
אז יש מי שמנסה לשנות את המציאות.
הבוקר הוועדה לקידום מעמד האישה תדון בחלופות מאסר לאימהות. ננסה לקבל תשובות איך מכניסים ילדים לכלא בישראל ולמה?
אני אספר על הדברים שראיתי בכלא ופורסמו אמש ב @MaarivOnline
שידור חי ב @knesset99 מוזמנים לצפות 09:00
יהיה חשוב. pic.twitter.com/dxhsg9oCxo
— Yanir Cozin (יניר) (@yanircozin) July 4, 2018
Marcy said that she chose jail over deportation back to Nigeria because she hopes her eldest son can get medical treatment in Israel for his severe asthma that he could not receive in Africa.
“If they would just give me one more year for my son to get treatment… after that we’ll leave,” she said.
Marcy’s husband was deported to Nigeria last year.
The children at Givon are allowed to play in the prison yard, but limited space and few toys often leave the children bored and restless.
Prison staff told the paper they have not undergone specialized training to oversee jailed mothers with small children, but said they were doing what they could to ease their experience.
A number of female staff members have donated toys, candy and books to the prison for the children.
“All of us have young kids, so we’ve become attached to them,” one female officer said.
The Population and Immigration Authority declined to respond on the matter of children incarcerated at Givon, but said that Marcy had been battling deportation for many years.
“Every court has held that she must leave the country,” the Authority said in a statement. “The aforementioned woman has been [ignoring the law] for a long time and has not left. We are unable to reach a different decision from the court.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Welfare Minister Haim Katz and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri declined to comment on the matter to the paper.
The report comes as the Trump administration continues to face scrutiny over the separation of thousands of immigrant children from parents who crossed the US-Mexico border illegally.
As a result of Trump’s immigration crackdown, some 3,000 children were separated from their families and, according to widely broadcast pictures, held in chain-link enclosures.
Faced with a barrage of criticism, Trump signed an executive order to halt the family separation practice, but made no specific provisions for those already split apart.
Agencies contributed to this report.