A Filipina caregiver and her 11-month-old baby were deported from Israel early Monday morning, becoming the first ones to be flown back as part of the country’s Population and Immigration Authority (PIA) crackdown on illegal foreign workers.
Jocelyn de Vera came to Israel over 13 years ago and has been staying on a recently-expired work permit. After she and her daughter were arrested last week, she expressed her desire to just return to the Philippines.
A representative from the Philippine Consulate in Israel visited the pair and helped issue a passport for the toddler.
“While the Philippines respects Israeli laws, it reiterates its request for the Israeli government to treat overstaying Filipinos in a humane and decent manner, most especially when children are involved,” a Foreign Affairs statement read.
Also on Monday morning, PIA inspectors arrested another Filipina and a foreign worker from Turkey as well as their children in southern Tel Aviv.
The Israel PIA intends to deport at least 100 illegal foreign workers with expired visas, mostly from the Philippines, and their Israeli-born children within the next two months.
On Sunday, Filipina Ofrecina Cuenca and her 12-year-old son Michael James were released from detention pending the result of their appeal to stay in Israel as her son has special education needs and knows only the Hebrew language.
Another Filipino family, Geraldine Esta and her children, Kathryn, 5, and Khean, 10, are locked up in a pre-deportation jail while their lawyer haggles for an extension of their stay.
Beth Franco, an activist in the United Children of Israel organization and herself a foreign worker with a child facing deportation, said their children know nothing apart from living in Israel, speak Hebrew as their first and sometimes only language and feel fully Israeli.
“I say to the Israeli government, you have children,” Franco told The Jerusalem Post. “You want the best for your children and have dreams for them. Please let these children to fulfil their dreams here in Israel. Open your hearts. They are ready to serve [in the Israel Defense Forces] and to be good citizens. They love being part of Israeli society. They are Israeli in every respect. Please try and accept them.”
According to the Interior Ministry, there are more than 100,000 legal foreign workers and close to 17,000 illegal foreign workers in Israel. There are also more than 66,000 foreign citizens in the country whose tourist visas have expired, the overwhelming majority of whom, or nearly 70%, are from the former Soviet Union. (Ynet News, Jerusalem Post)