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12.6.2014

Following a protracted legal battle: the Ministry of Interior amended the procedure for handling registration applications of children who have only one Israeli-resident parent

Under the protocols of the Ministry of Interior, children who have only one parent who is a permanent resident of Israel are not registered automatically in the Israeli population registry, regardless of their birthplace – Israel or elsewhere. In fact, the registration of these children is achieved only following a laborious and protracted procedure, as part of which the Israeli parent must prove that in the two years preceding the application for child registration, their center-of-life was in Israel. If, in processing the application, the interior-ministry officials are not satisfied that during the two years prior to application, the family maintained a center-of-life in Israel, the child is not registered in the population registry. In this event, the child is not only denied status in Israel, his right to a secure family unit is violated, his rights to education and health are compromised, and he is effectively turned into a stranger, exposed to deportation from the country of his mother or father.

Until recently in such cases, the Ministry of Interior demanded that the Israeli resident apply to register the children only when it could be proved, by various documents and certificates, that the family had maintained a constant center-of-life in Israel in the preceding two years; the ramifications of this demand were particularly harsh for children coming under the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order). This Law splits such children – children who once lived or were registered in the OPT – into two distinct classes based on their age during application for registration in Israel: children under age 14 to whom the Minister of Interior may give Israeli status, and children over age 14 to whom the minister may not grant status,  who may receive, at most, a military-issued permit to stay in Israel (a DCO permit).

To illustrate – because of the interior ministry's demand to complete a two year center-of-life in Israel before applying to register a child, a child who returned from the OPT to Israel at age 13, for example, could not ask for Israeli status until age 15, but by then the child would no longer be entitled to status, only to DCO permits. Moreover, a child who arrived at Israel at the age of 16 and one month would not even be permitted to live with his family in Israel, because two years after arriving to Israel, the child would no longer count as a minor.

In 2006, an East Jerusalem resident, married to a Palestinian from the West Bank, applied to register her children – defined under the Temporary Order as OPT residents – as permanent residents in Israel. At the time she applied, the family had not yet completed a two year period of center-of-life in Israel, and therefore her application was dismissed out of hand. In 2009, when the mother applied anew, two of her children were already over age 14, and therefore received only renewable DCO permits. HaMoked's administrative appeal against the ministry's decision not to register the children was rejected and so was an objection filed on their behalf.

On May 16, 2011, HaMoked filed an administrative petition to the Court for Administrative Affairs, to instruct the Ministry of Interior to register the two children and ruled that in determining the child's age for the purpose of child registration, the effective date should be the filing date of the child registration application. HaMoked argued that the interior ministry's requirement – for a full two-year period of center-of-life by the Israeli parent prior to application – manifests an extreme and unbalanced policy which harms the best interests of the child and of the family unit. HaMoked further argued that the ministry's refusal to consider child registration applications before the end of the two year period of center-of-life in Israel goes against the principle that the child's status should be made equal to that of the custodial parent who is a resident of the state. The court dismissed the petition, ruling that the interior ministry policy conformed to the provisions of the Temporary Order and did not exceed the bounds of reasonability.

HaMoked appealed the judgment to the Supreme Court, arguing, inter alia, that the sole purpose of the interior ministry's policy was to limit the number of children in East Jerusalem who receive Israeli status. In the hearing, the justices insisted on receiving answers from the state, and hinted that the state should consider accepting child registration applications submitted before the end of the required two-year period in Israel. Thus, on September 9, 2013, the state announced that it would revise its protocols "concerning new requests that will be filed henceforth".

The revised procedures for the registration of children who have only one Israeli-resident parent – the one concerning children born in Israel and the other concerning children born outside the country – stipulate that child registration applications filed before the end of the required two year period of center-of-life in Israel, are not rejected outright, but remain pending until the family lives in Israel for two whole years – at that time, a decision will be made whether to approve or reject the application, according to proof of center-of-life submitted by the family. This means that the child's status will be determined according to his/her age at the time the application was filed, rather than his/her age at the time the family succeeded to prove a two-year center-of-life in Israel. However, the revised procedures explicitly stipulate that the new policy applies only to applications filed after September 1, 2013.

In its response to the court, HaMoked insisted that the new regulations should also apply to children whose parents sought to register before the state announced its change of policy, and stressed that "the children's best interests are not a technical or procedural issue but a substantive issue". The court refused to order the retroactive applicability of the new policy, but recommended that the interior ministry approve the applications of the two children on whose behalf the appeal was filed.

Thus, on June 11, 2014, the Ministry of Interior decided "as a gesture" to grant the two children temporary status is Israel for two years, whereupon they would receive an upgrade to permanent status. The court gave the ministry's notice the force of a judgement. Thus ended the appeal proceedings.

View HaMoked's advertisement in Arabic published in Al-Quds Newspaper concerning the change of procedure.
mail@hamoked.org.il (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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