NGOs slam detention facility plan for illegal families

Posted by admin on Feb 25th, 2011

By Ben Hartman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 25 2011

NGO’s expressed their outrage following reports this week that the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority was building a detention facility to house illegal residents of Israel and their children as they await deportation. Rotem Ilan, founder of the NGO Israeli Children, an advocacy and support group for the children of foreign workers, said Wednesday that “400 children and their families do not present a demographic threat to Israel like the population authority asserts. The only threat to the state of Israel is the moral stain that will be left by the expulsion of children.”

Ilan added that “all the toys in the world won’t succeed in obscuring the fact that the state of Israel plans to imprison children through no fault of their own.”

He pointed a finger at Interior Minister Eli Yishai, saying that “presenting the expulsion of children as a solution to the problem of immigration at the same time that the door continues to revolve and the government continues to bring more and more foreign workers to Israel, is throwing sand in the eyes of the Israeli public.”

Shahar Shoham of Physicians for Human Rights said the policy of jailing illegal residents and their children at the new facility would “seriously harm their right to health and well-being. We are calling on the State of Israel to pull itself out of the murky, racist policy and finally forge a policy that respects all people, especially young children who need special protection.”

However, Sabine Haddad, spokeswoman for the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, disputed the way the issue was being presented in the media, saying it wasn’t a detention facility for children, but a “holding facility” to host the families of arrested illegal residents who were waiting for a judge’s decision on the appeal of their deportation.

By law, if an illegal resident in the country is arrested, he or she has the right to appeal the decision to a judge and is given 72 hours to have his or her case heard in court.

According to Haddad, the facility is meant to host the family during this time so that they don’t disappear, which she said has often been an issue in the past.

“The children are not the issue; we don’t arrest children, we arrest parents,” she said. “But if, say, a father is arrested, and he decides to give up his right to see a judge, then all of the family will leave Israel immediately without having to stay in the facility.”

Whether or not a family goes to the facility, Haddad said, “all depends on the family and if the parents are responsible enough to deny the appeal.”

She added that the facility was not being built ahead of any pending police round-up and that the parents in question “are people we are sure are not legal and have been here a long time.”

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