Two Israeli-born children of Filipina workers incarcerated pending possible deportation orders were released on bail Friday, November 1, along with their respective mothers, after each family deposited a guarantee of NIS 30,000 ($8,500) with authorities. The families raised the collateral money from teachers and the parents of friends who study with the children at Tel Aviv schools. The four had been held for several days at Givon Prison in Ramle ahead of their expected deportation, a final decision on which has yet to be made.
Dr. Ze’ev Degani, the principal of Gymnasia Herzliya in Tel Aviv, came with several teachers to the migrant detention facility in Ramle to protest the detention of one of their pupils and her mother, calling for their immediate release. On Thursday, October 31, a thousand pupils, their teachers and parents protested outside the prison calling to free Gena Antigo, 13, and Ralph Harel, 10. Among the protesters was Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List). Classmates carried signs at the demonstration of “We won’t let them deport Gena,” and “They’re children just like us.”
The two children were reportedly taken into custody despite an understanding with the Interior Ministry that immigration authorities would not target minors at or on their way to or from school. Hearings have still not been held for the children and their mothers.
“We’ve been walking to school together for years, go to each other’s houses, we’re like sisters,” Gena’s best friend Sivan told Haaretz. “I’m scared she won’t be here with me anymore. I don’t know why they want to deport her, she’s a wonderful girl. I’m going to demonstrate with all my friends so they release her.”
The arrests came as part of the Population Immigration and Border Authority’s new racist crackdown on foreign workers who overstay their work visas. Earlier this year, Israel deported for the first time ever Israeli-born children of foreign workers. The deportation of foreign workers, whether by agreement or forced, has faced criticism due to the impact it can have on their children who were born in the country, some of whom spent years in the Israeli education system.
Regulations stipulate that, as a condition for renewal of their work visas, female foreign workers who become pregnant must send their newborn babies back to their home country. However, many fail to do so and remain in Israel doing menial jobs to give their children a chance for a better life than they would have in the mother’s country of origin.
Some 60,000 foreign caregivers — most of them women — are currently employed in Israel, according to the Hotline for Workers, an advocacy and labor 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.