Deportation of Israeli-born Filipino children halted on welfare concerns

Deportation of Israeli-born Filipino children halted on welfare concerns
The deportation of 13 year-old Gena Antigone and 10-year-old Ralph Harel will be re-examined, an Israeli court ruled out of concern for the children's welfare.
4 min read
04 November, 2019
Gena Antigo was arrested as she was getting ready for school [UCI/Facebook]

Israel halted the planned deportation of two Filipino children born in Israel and their mothers on Sunday, Haaretz reported. 

An Israeli appeals court overturned the deportation order on the basis that the welfare of the two children was not sufficiently addressed - the first reversal since the start of the current wave of deportations

Thirteen-year-old Gena Antigo and 10-year-old Ralph Harel were released on a 30,000 shekel (£6,588) bail each on Friday, according to Haaretz

Antigone, a Philippines national living attending school in Tel Aviv, was arrested with her mother by Israeli authorities early Thursday morning as she prepared for school. Ralph Harel was arrested Tuesday and was being held along with his mother.

Antigone's mother has been resident in Israel for 15 years, 12 of those years without a permit.

No hearing had been held for Antigo, despite the new Israeli justice ministry guidelines that stipulate children above the age of 12 must be given a hearing before a decision on deportation is made. 

"It cannot be determined that the welfare of the minors was properly examined by the Population and Immigration Authority before it made its decision to issue the deportation order," Judge Michael Zilberschmidt said in the ruling to reverse the deportation order.

Judge Zilberschmidt ruled that because the population and immigrations authority had not implemented the new justice ministry directives by interviewing Gena Antigone, the case had to be re-examined.

Read more: Israel opens probe after video shows unarmed Palestinian shot

"We thank the honorable court for its decision. Now the Immigration Authority, like any other authority in Israel, will be required to carry out the court's instructions regarding the welfare and safeguarding of the minors. We will continue to do whatever necessary to safeguard the children's rights and welfare, wherever they are," said the families Attorney David Tadmor.

'Children like us'

Over 1,000 students, teachers and parents demonstrated on Thursday outside Israel's Givon Prison to draw attention to the detention of the two Filipino children.

"We won't let them deport Gena," "They're children just like us," and "No evil in our schools," were some of the protesters' slogans, Haaretz reported.

United Children of Israel, a Filipino group of mothers advocating for children born in Israel, released a statement on the arrests. 

"We won't go to school, we won't go to work, we won't just go on with our lives while Gena and Harel are spending their nights in prison," it read.

Gena's school principal was in attendance at the protest with several teachers and told Haaretz he saw his student crying behind bars. 

"It is inhuman, illegal and immoral to arrest and deport a girl who was merely preparing her bag for school," Principal Ze'ev Degani told the Israeli newspaper.

"Our government harasses a young girl when it doesn't manage to deal with much bigger problems. What kind of society are we? I'm embarrassed to be an Israeli these days."

The school plans to send 10 busloads of students and teachers to join the demonstrations later on Thursday.

Safety at school

Schlomo Mor-Yosef, Head of Israel's Population and Immigration Authority, promised at the start of the school year that children of illegal migrants would not be detained heading to, during, or coming from school.

Despite this Antigo was arrested as she prepared for school. According to Haaretz, the authorities claim Mor-Yosef did not break his promise as she was not technically heading to school.

Read more: Israel to deport Filipina woman refusing to reveal her children's whereabouts

Migrants, their children, and Israeli citizens staged a protest in Tel Aviv in August against the country's policy of deporting the Israeli-born children of foreign workers.

The policy is connected to Israel's long-running preoccupation with maintaining a Jewish-majority population in the country.

UCI argues that it is cruel to send children of migrants to a country they have never seen and where they do not speak the language.

Many of the around 28,000 Filipinos in Israel arrived in the country to work as caregivers and domestic workers.

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