ISRAEL

Israel to deport migrant children: “A threat to the state’s Jewish character”

Thousands of demonstrators gathered on Tuesday night in Tel Aviv to protest the Israeli government's plans to deport some 1,200 children of illegal migrant labourers. One of our Observers was there. Read her account...

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"Don't deport us." Photo by Mya Guarnieri.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered on Tuesday night in Tel Aviv to protest the Israeli government's plans to deport some 1,200 children of illegal migrant labourers. One of our Observers was there.

Mya Guarnieri is a freelance journalist and blogger based in Tel Aviv.

Most of the kids were born in Israel, speak Hebrew, and celebrate the Jewish holidays. They have never visited their parents' countries of origin. Interior Minister Eli Yishai, the government official behind the plan, has called the children a threat to the Jewish character of the state. The expulsion is slated for the end of the school year in June.

At Tuesday night's protest, a last-ditch effort to save the children before school ends, every utterance of Yishai's name elicited boos from the crowd. And it is worth noting that the crowd included members of the government and other politicans. One of them, Knesset [parliament] member Nitzan Horowitz (MK) told a cheering crowd: ‘We're not going to let anyone deport them'.

He spoke of the grassroots organisation Israeli Children which has supported them since July 2009. He added that it's not enough that the children be allowed to stay. They must also receive legal status.

Teresa, a 33-year-old migrant labourer from the Philippines who faces expulsion along with her husband and their five-year-old son, was deeply moved by the event. As she searched for the words, she put her hand to her heart. ‘I'm very happy to know that a lot of Israelis love us,' she said, in fluent Hebrew."

"We don't have another land." Photo by Mya Guarnieri.

"Israel is my home. Here I learned to read Hebrew. All my friends are here. I am an Israeli child." Photo by Mya Guarnieri.