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Civil Status of Foreign Workers' Children to Be Determined Soon
The civil status of hundreds of children of foreign workers, who reside in Israel devoid of legal rights, will be determined over the course of the next months.
In two weeks Attorney General Menahem Mazuz will meet with Interior Minister Avraham Poraz to hammer out the legal aspects of conferring Israeli citizenship on the children.
Then, the ministerial committee for population registration, headed by Poraz, is expected to meet to authorize the bill proposed several months ago, whereby Israeli citizenship would be granted to children of foreign workers aged 12-18 (grades 5-12) who have lived in Israel for most of their lives, provided their parents first entered the country legally.
The parents will be permitted to stay as legal residents until their children reach the age of 21, upon their release from army service. Younger children of foreign workers (grades 1-4) or those enrolled in kindergartens, and even infants, will be deported from the country along with their parents.
The process of "laundering" the status of the foreign workers' children, who are living in Israel without legal rights, and in fact currently have no legal status, will be a one-shot affair.
According to Education Ministry statistics, 604 children of foreign workers study in grades 5-12 throughout the country. These children and their younger siblings will be recognized as citizens by the state, and 1,200 more resident permits will be given to their parents.
At least 817 students are slated to be deported, 505 from grades 1-4, and 312 kindergarten children, as well as 1,600 parents of such children. Of the 1,420 children of foreign workers in the lower grades and kindergarten, some 60 percent will be deported.
The committee's proposal, which was supposed to have been approved a few months ago, was blocked by attorney Yochi Gnessin, who is in charge of petitions to the High Court in the Justice Ministry.
Gnessin's opinion, which she submitted to the committee, argued that the law could not discriminate between children of foreign workers whose parents are illegal and children of Palestinians who are residing in Israel illegally.
Since the committee made the naturalization of children of foreign workers contingent on the denial of a similar status to Palestinian children, the attorney general, according to Poraz, asked the committee to provide statistics about the number of children the proposed bill would affect. Poraz intends to present statistics about the number of such children attending schools in Tel Aviv, which amounts to some 480 in grades 5-12. Poraz will dispute Gnessin's opinion, which holds that the High Court will not be able to uphold the discrimination between foreign workers' children and Palestinian children. "Discrimination violates the dignity of those discriminated against, because the principle of equality before the law is a part of human dignity," she said.
Part of the population registration committee's rationale in allowing children of foreign workers to stay in Israel is humanitarian, "since they are integrated into Israeli society, and deporting them would transplant them in a country to which they had no cultural ties."
Attorney Gnessin argues the same humanitarian logic applies to Palestinian children who would be forced to emigrate to the territories, where life conditions are radically different.
Poraz will counter that a Palestinian child leaving Israel would still be part of the same regional, cultural and linguistic milieu, unlike a child of Filipino workers, for example, who would be exiled thousands of miles away.
Poraz says the committee reached a consensus to remedy the injustice to hundreds of illegal children and that he is convinced the attorney general will override the Justice Ministry's objections in the upcoming meeting and "find a legal way of implementing the government's policy."