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‘They don’t come to have life’: Israel pushes to separate migrant couple with 8-month-old baby

‘They don’t come to have life’: Israel pushes to separate migrant couple with 8-month-old baby
A pair of Indian caretakers who recently had a baby in Israel are caught in the crosshairs of an immigration agency that is pushing one of them to leave, as it believes migrants can’t “have life” in the Jewish state.

Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority (PIA) believes migrants can’t enjoy anything but working for their Israeli employers. Earlier this week, a 28-year-old Indian caretaker named Charel and her partner fell victim to Israel’s strict anti-migrant legislation, Haaretz reports.

The couple wanted to make a brief trip back to India, leaving their eight-month-old child in Israel with Charel’s mother. This is probably how they came to be on the PIA’s radar, the newspaper suggests. The immigration authority demanded that one of the partners leave Israel as a condition of extending the work visa for the other.

The couple themselves say they aren’t planning to settle in Israel, and they haven’t even seen each other much. Both partners live with the elderly person they’re caring for, and only have a few days off.

“I'm supporting my mother and my brothers and sisters. I paid $12,000 to come to Israel and I still haven’t made back what I spent to get here,” Charel said, adding that she is “not asking anything from Israel.”

Israeli immigration rules do not explicitly forbid migrants from having relationships in the country, but they do prevent them from staying there at the same time. Over the past year, the PIA has apparently backed down every time an appeal was filed against such demands, the newspaper said, citing Kav LaOved (Worker’s Hotline), a rights group in charge of defending foreign workers’ rights.

However, the authority’s response has been entirely different on this occasion. It fired back at a petition by Kav LaOved and filed a lawsuit against Charel and her partner to the Jerusalem Court of Appeal.

“There is growing concern that the petitioner and the baby’s father are conducting life as a couple and a family in Israel in a manner that violates the authority’s rules,” the PIA claimed in a bizarre lawsuit.

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Foreign workers “come here to provide a service to Israel, which pays them,” a PIA official told the court, as cited by the newspaper.

They did not come here to have a life and find partners. 

The NGO’s lawyers strongly objected to the immigration agency’s policy, saying it was “unparalleled in the world” and violated not only Israeli law “but the most basic human moral standards.”

The government signs off on sentences like “there’s a suspicion they are forming a family unit, as if a family unit is no less than a terror cell,” Meytal Russo, a Kav LaOved lawyer, told Haaretz.

Israel is widely known for its repatriation programs for ethnic Jews, but its immigration policies towards non-Jewish arrivals are far from liberal. Throughout 2018 and 2017, Israel has been deporting thousands of African asylum seekers with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claiming “illegal infiltrators” are more damaging to the country than terrorists.

Even those who enter Israel legally may face trouble at the border. On Thursday, a newspaper report said a record 19,000 travelers were turned away by immigration staff citing concerns that they would commit criminal offenses or immigrate illegally. The figure marks an increase from the 16,534 visitors who were rejected in 2016.

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