Why Israel Keeps Deporting Foreign Workers – and Their Kids – Only to Import New Ones

Beth, who only feels safe giving her first name, is a caregiver from the Philippines. She has been in Israel since 1999 and, when she broke the terms of her work permit and had a child here, she decided to continue to work illegally.

She had to pay a hefty brokerage fee to a manpower company to get the visa in the first place: $2,700 in cash, she says. And though she paid back the sum, a desire to give her child a better life and remain with her employer, for whom she was working as a caregiver, made her stay – even if it meant facing deportation for breaking the terms of her permit.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 57

Hijacking the Holocaust for Putin, politics and powerHaaretz Weekly Ep. 57

Beth’s story is not unique. Almost all of the country’s unskilled foreign workers have to pay onerous brokerage fees to work as caregivers, or in other jobs allotted for foreign workers in construction, agricultural work or the hotel industry. The work visas – which last for just over five years – they get from Israel in return are not always renewed. And many are forced to break one of its most draconian clauses: the ban on having a child while in Israel. 

The issue has come to the fore due to the recent crackdown on undocumented foreign caregivers, most of whom are women who remained in Israel illegally after giving birth to children here. 

Israel holding pregnant migrant worker in isolation for months, defying UN guidelines

A caregiver pushing a woman in a wheelchair around a park in Ra’anana. Alon Ron

On Sunday, it was reported that a pregnant woman from Ghana has been held in isolation for four months by the Israel Prison Service, despite guidelines by the World Medical Association and the United Nations against holding pregnant women in isolation. Moreover, several mothers and their often Israeli-born children have been arrested and jailed since the summer, only to be later released on bail awaiting deportation hearings. The children all speak fluent Hebrew and have grown up in the country. Their potential deportation has sparked protests by their supporters and schoolchildren in Tel Aviv, seeking to save their friends.

“I’m not saying they have to absorb everyone who comes here,” Beth says, “but think of tomorrow before bringing more and more.”