TEL AVIV – The will to protect their children overcame the fear felt by Ivy and Romela, two Filipino women who have lived in Israel for almost 15 years and who told EFE that they are living through a new round of deportations.
Ivy said that she already has everything packed and suitcases ready, and even carries a change of clothes with her.
She said she arrived in Israel in 2005 after paying $4,500 to an agency that managed her work permit, which was not renewed after the birth of her son Povi in the country in 2009.
There are about a hundred women in a similar situation, mostly mothers who were left alone with their children after the deportation of their husbands and whose status was not renewed after giving birth.
There are also around 30,000 Filipino foreign workers in Israel, almost all women who work as carers for elderly people, many of them without children and others whose children were part of two rounds of legalizations that took place in 2006 and 2010 that granted status to families with children of six years or more.
Now, children who did not qualify for these legalizations because they are under six years old are being deported along with their families to the country where their parents came from, although they were born and raised in Israel, speak only Hebrew and have never left the country.
Romela said that children have been taken from their beds in the early hours of the morning.
She said she arrived from the Philippines in 2005 and in 2008 lost her status after giving birth to Sivan, the first of her two daughters.
Both Romela and Ivy, who did not give their surnames, work cleaning houses, something they describe as physically exhausting but particularly problematic because of the impossibility of ensuring the minimum monthly hours needed to obtain the income they need.
Although they are afraid, especially for the future of their children, they agreed to show their faces and give their real names.
Part of their confidence comes from the support they have received from the United Children of Israel, an organization that fights for the rights of children born in Israel facing the threat of deportation.
Beth, a member of the organization, was also threatened with deportation together with her 12-year-old daughter.
She said she wants the Israeli government to “look us in the eye” and tell them that their children do not deserve to stay, despite growing up in the country.
Many of the mothers have stopped working for fear of being arrested by immigration officers, a fear that was accentuated on Monday after the expulsion of a Filipino woman who had arrived in 2006 with her 11-month-old baby.
Ivy said that hiding is not a possibility for her because if she does not work she cannot pay her rent or feed her children.
She and Romela said that they receive important support from the Israeli parents of their children’s classmates, who have accompanied them in protests, offered to take their children to activities and bring grocery shopping to their homes so they do not have to go outside.
Ivy’s son Povi recently turned ten and dreams of working at the Ramat Gan Zoo, near Tel Aviv.
He does not speak Filipino, does not know the country’s culture and has never even been there.
He said that Israel is his home and he does not know why the government is trying to deport them.
He added that he would not like to leave, because he would miss his friends, family and life in Israel.
Romela’s daughter Sivan, 11, said that she is sad if she thinks about leaving and that it is difficult for her to express her feelings, a mixture of sadness and anger.
Israel’s government, specifically for the Population and Immigration Authority, said they are “foreign citizens who have been living in Israel for a long time in violation of the law and without status.”
Although most of the people facing this predicament came from the Philippines, there are also families from other countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, mainly Colombia.