Over 1,000 people rallied Tuesday in Tel Aviv to protest the deportation of Israeli-born children of foreign workers.
Authorities this summer have been working to deport some 50 children of foreign workers born in Israel. The Interior Ministry maintains that the children are in the country illegally because their mothers have overstayed their visas.
Media reports put the number of protesters at the rally outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art at between 1,500 and 3,000 people.
Among those speaking at the rally were children slated for deportation, including 10-year-old Khean Esta. Last week, a court rejected an appeal seeking to block authorities from deporting him, his sibling and his Filipino mother who remained in Israel illegally after her visa expired.
“Maybe you saw me on TV when they took me from my home. They broke the window and the door. It was very scary. We did nothing wrong to anyone. They put me, my sister and my mother in jail. We were there for a long time. About a week, which was unpleasant for me,” Esta said.
“I’m an Israeli,” Esta continued. “I don’t understand why they want to deport me. I didn’t do anything. I’ve always been in Israel and I really love Israel. I love all my friends. Why take kids from their house and put them in jail and deport them? Please help us.”
Tamar Zandberg, a lawmaker from the left-wing Meretz party, called for the deportations to be immediately halted.
“We came out today to stop the deportation of Israeli children who were born in Israel, speak Hebrew, make friends at school and continue to be labelled ‘foreigners’ in their country,” she said at the protest.
“It can’t be that children will be held in detention facilities at the airport instead of enjoying the summer vacation.”
A smattering of demonstrators held a counter-protest nearby led by Sheffi Paz, a south Tel Aviv resident who has been leading protests calling for African migrants and workers in Israel illegally to be deported.
The counter-protesters held up a large sign reading “Manila is not Auschwitz,” referring to the Philippine capital and Nazi death camp, respectively. Many of those scheduled for deportation come from the Philippines.
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 and some of whom have spent years in the Israeli system.
Under Israeli regulations, female foreign workers who become pregnant must send their babies home, as a condition for visa renewal. But many fail to do so and stay in the country illegally doing menial jobs, to give their children a better life than they would get in their home country.
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 %), 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, including 25 Filipinos, two Nepalese, one Indian and one Moldovan.