Saturday, 17 July 2010

Israel's racist migration policy sees children facing deportation

The following appaling story comes from Al Jazeera;
Children of undocumented migrant workers who were born and have lived their whole lives in Israel are now facing deportation [EPA]
For most children summer is a carefree time. But for the children of Israel's undocumented migrant workers, deportation looms on the horizon.

It has been a hotly contested issue since last July, when the Oz Unit, a strong arm of the interior ministry's population and immigration authority, first hit the streets.

As the state took aim at Israel's 250,000 illegal labourers, 1,200 children were marked for expulsion along with their parents.

The move, a sudden reversal of Israel's long-standing policy against deporting minors, sparked public outrage. Protests and media scrutiny delayed the deportations but only temporarily.

In October, Eli Yishai, the interior minister, indicated that the families would indeed be expelled. The following month, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, announced that the children would be allowed to finish the school year.
Roei Lachmanovich, a spokesman for Yishai, commented: "The government's decision is that Israel should minimise the number of foreign workers in Israel. It is nothing against those 1,200 children - the decision is against the illegal workers who think getting pregnant gives them permission to stay here."

"There's a way that these parents use the children," Lachmanovich added, accusing the mothers of hiding behind their children to avoid deportation.

Forbidden relationships
But, in fact, many of the women became illegal simply because they gave birth in Israel.

State policy forbids migrant workers from having children in the country. If a woman does, she must send her newborn home. If she keeps her baby in Israel, she loses her work visa.

Romantic relationships are also forbidden for foreign workers. In June, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on the story of Charlene Ramos, a Filipina caregiver with employment and a valid work visa, who faces deportation because she married another migrant labourer.

Hanna Zohar, the director of Kav LaOved, an Israeli NGO that advocates for workers' rights, says: "Israel decided to bring migrant workers. But they are not only workers, they are human beings."

Labourers should not be punished for falling in love or having babies, Zohar argues. Nor should they be expelled for it.

"Deporting children and their family is not humane," she says.
This confirms my point, made in December, that "it is not just Palestinians who suffer under Israel's two-tier labour system."

Then, I wrote how organising pressure had forced Israel's main trade union body - the Histadrut - to alter its racist policy towards migrant workers, if slightly. The task for activists in Israel now is to exert that same pressure against the racist policies of the state, in defence of families being forced out of what is - at the end of it - their home.

I sincerely hope that they succeed.