Hundreds protest against detention of Israeli-born Filipino children

Over 1,000 protest against detention of Israeli-born Filipino children set to be deported
3 min read
31 October, 2019
Thirteen-year-old Gena Antigo's school community has come out in force to protest her planned deportation to the Philippines.
Gena Antigo was arrested as she was getting ready for school [UCI/Facebook]
Over 1,000 students, teachers and parents demonstrated on Thursday outside Israel's Givon Prison to draw attention to the detention of two Filipino children born in Israel who are due to be deported.

One of the children, 13-year-old Gena Antigo, was arrested by Israeli authorities early the same morning as she prepared for school.

Antigo is being held with her mother, who has been resident in Israel for 15 years, 12 of those years without a permit.

No hearing has been held for Antigo, a Philippines national living and going to school in Tel Aviv, despite the new Israeli Justice Ministry guidelines that stipulate children above the age of 12 must be given a hearing prior to deportation. 

Protesters are also demonstrating for Ralph Harel, 10, who is being held along with his mother.

"We won't let them deport Gena," "They're children just like us," and "No evil in our schools," were some of the protesters' slogans, Haaretz reported.

United Children of Israel, a Filipino group of mothers advocating for children born in Israel, released a statement on the arrests. 

"We won't go to school, we won't go to work, we won't just go on with our lives while Gena and Harel are spending their nights in prison," it read.

Gena's school principal was in attendance at the protest with several teachers and told Haaretz he saw his student crying behind bars. 

"It is inhuman, illegal and immoral to arrest and deport a girl who was merely preparing her bag for school," Principal Ze'ev Degani told the Israeli newspaper.

"Our government harasses a young girl when it doesn't manage to deal with much bigger problems. What kind of society are we? I'm embarrassed to be an Israeli these days."

The school plans to send 10 busloads of students and teachers to join the demonstrations later on Thursday.

Schlomo Mor-Yosef, Head of Israel's Population and Immigration Authority, promised at the start of the school year that children of illegal migrants would not be detained heading to, during, or coming from school.

Despite this Antigo was arrested as she prepared for school. According to Haaretz, the authorities claim Mor-Yosef did not break his promise as she was not technically heading to school.

Read more: Israel to deport Filipina woman refusing to reveal her children's whereabouts

Migrants, their children, and Israeli citizens staged a protest in Tel Aviv in August against the country's policy of deporting the Israeli-born children of foreign workers.

The policy is connected to Israel's long-running preoccupation with maintaining a Jewish-majority population in the country.

UCI argues that it is cruel to send children of migrants to a country they have never seen and where they do not speak the language.

Many of the around 28,000 Filipinos in Israel arrived in the country to work as caregivers and domestic workers.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab