Israel bends on kids' deportation
Jerusalem - Israel on Sunday approved a compromise ministerial plan to deport 400 children of foreign workers while allowing another 800 to remain in the Jewish state, the prime minister's office said.
A majority of cabinet members approved the recommendation of a commission created by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November 2009 to decide the fate of the children, all of whom were threatened with deportation.
According to the government's decision, children of migrant workers who have lived in the country for more than five years and who speak Hebrew will be allowed to remain in the country with permanent residency permits.
The remainder will be deported to their home countries along with their families.
The issue of the migrant children, many of whom have attended Israeli schools, learned Hebrew and come to see the country as their own, has provoked heated debate, especially since they are eligible for social benefits.
Netanyahu warned that too much leniency would create additional incentives for more illegal immigration, which he called a "tangible threat to the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel".
There are more than 220 000 foreign workers in Israel, including about 100 000 who are in the country illegally, according to official figures. The total population is about 7.6 million, with a Jewish majority of 75.5%.
Israel began employing large numbers of foreign labourers in the 1990s, mainly in low-paying construction and agricultural jobs, and issues some 30 000 foreign work permits each year.