Israeli ambassador on Filipinos facing deportation: 'Respect the country’s laws'

MANILA, Philippines – Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Rafael Harpaz expressed gratitude to the Filipinos who “take care of our most beloved ones,” but expects them to respect the country’s laws.

Last week, a Filipino migrant worker and her son were deported from Israel for staying in the country illegally for 12 years, after all court appeals had been exhausted.

"I won’t speak about specific cases, I’ll tell you in general: in every country in the world, including the Philippines or European countries, when your working visa is ending, you should leave. There are cases here, people stay 10 or 12 years after their visa was expired, knowing that they’re illegal," Harpaz said. 

28,000 Filipinos work in Israel as caregivers and home help, and 600 families could face expulsion due to the policy of deporting Israeli-born children of migrants.

The United Children of Israel association argued that this policy is cruel, for it will send children of migrants to a country they have never seen and where they do not speak the language.

Migrants and Israeli supporters protested against the policy last week in Tel Aviv. (READ: Born in Israel, hundreds of Filipino children risk expulsion)

The ambassador said that they handled these cases with caution, and that Israel went beyond in dealing with humanitarian needs by allowing extensions for those who were still in school.

"Humanitarian issues are very close to us, that’s why [for] people that were supposed to leave last year, we waited until the end of the school year," he said.

Harpaz was the guest of honor during Quezon City’s commemoration of Manual Quezon’s 141st birth anniversary, where he spoke about the aid that Quezon extended towards Jews.

During the Holocaust, Manuel Quezon provided sanctuary to 1,200 Jews, a decision which Harpaz stated "greatly influenced bilateral relations between Israel and the Philippines."

"History teaches us valuable lessons. Behind every historical event, the legacy of the leader is the one that should always be remembered and be used as a compass of present and future leaders," he said.

Foreign workers for tourism

Meanwhile, Harpaz stated that Israel will be opening its doors to foreign workers in the field of tourism 2-3 months from now, with the Philippines being the first country to sign a government to government agreement.

According to Harpaz, Israel had 4.2 million tourists in the last year, which is almost half of the country’s population of 9 million.

In response, Israel will be taking in migrant tourism workers in order to better handle the influx of tourists.

Harpaz stated that this is the first time the country will be welcoming foreign workers in the area of tourism, with the exception of Jordan.

The country will also be reducing their placement fees, which range from $8,000 to $10,000.

Those who will be working for tourism will only be charged around $800, according to the ambassador. –

Loreben Tuquero

Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.