A 55-year-old citizen of Ethiopia, whose ex-wife and four children are Israeli citizens, has reportedly been held for about a month in the Saharonim detention facility in the south of the country, pending deportation from Israel despite being eligible for permanent residency.
Officials from the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA) offered the family to file another request on the matter in nine years, when the man turns 64, the age at which one can apply for residency under the legal definition of “an elderly, lonely parent of an Israeli citizen,” according to a report in Haaretz.
Three of the man’s children completed the obligatory army service in the IDF, and two of them are in reserve service. This fact allows the man to apply for residency, based on his being “a parent of soldiers in service,” one of the PIBA categories allowing non-Israelis to apply for residency. According to the definition, the parent of a male or female soldier who has served at least 12 months is eligible to apply for the status of permanent resident.
The man’s children found out about the category only recently, despite repeated requests regarding their father, including recourse to the legal system. According to Haaretz, PIBA officials did not mention the procedure to the family at any point on the process to prevent their father’s deportation.
The family came to Israel in the 1990s. The father arrived for the first time in 2007 on a tourist visa and again in 2010 to attend a daughter’s wedding. In March 2013, he came again for the wedding of another daughter.
His last tourist visa expired in June 2013, and since then he remained in Israel illegally. The man did turn to PIBA with a request to receive resident status before his visa expired, according to the report. His family hired an attorney and at one point he even asked to extend his visa in order to begin the process of conversion to Judaism. PIBA rejected all his requests, including the latest two months ago, on humanitarian grounds. The family appealed the latest refusal.
Beersheba District Court judge Sara Dovrat ruled in the appeal that “there seems to be no wrongdoing [on PIBA’s part] justifying intervention by the court.”
Approximately a month ago, PIBA inspectors came to the house of the man’s eldest daughter in Netivot, where he stayed for the last few months. They arrested him, jailed him and told him he was facing deportation from the country. The family sought help at the Center for Legal Counsel for Immigrants at the Movement for Progressive Judaism. A lawyer there, Sarah Lewis, revealed to them that the man is eligible to become a resident due to his children’s army service.
Lewis asked PIBA not to deport the man until a request based on this procedure is examined.
On Wednesday last week, following Lewis’s latest request on the matter, the man was subpoenaed to court urgently and told he must prepare for immediate deportation.
“The judge has shaken his confidence so badly that he called us and said: ‘Never mind, I’m just making you run in circles, I don’t think this is going anywhere, I’ll return to Ethiopia,’” his daughter told Haaretz. “He is completely desperate by now.”
PIBA said in response that the man overstayed his visa “despite his commitment and the guarantee deposited in his name. Since 2013, he has been trying to set root in Israel in any way possible: by applying for conversion, as a humanitarian case, as an elderly parent and more – all while remaining in the country illegally. It is not Israeli authorities’ responsibility to recommend to an illegal alien what is the ‘recommended route’ to receive residency. Lawyer Sarah Lewis filed her ‘new’ requests on July 14, long after all procedures in the man’s case ended and no reason was found to prevent his deportation. At this point in time, as far as the authorities are concerned, all procedures have been exhausted and the man must leave the country.”
Source: Times of Israel