Does the Interior Ministry have the right to deport South Sudanese children if it means returning them to the custody of abusive parents? This is the question at the root of a petition filed Wednesday with the High Court of Justice by several human rights organizations against the Interior Ministry and the Welfare Ministry that seeks to "ensure the safety of children from South Sudan."
As previously published on Ynet, the first deportation flight sent three abused South Sudanese children home with their father, from whose custody they had already been removed for several months.
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The Refugee Rights Clinic is demanding on behalf of the human rights groups that migrant children whom the authorities have removed from their parents' care because of abuse or neglect not be returned to their parents' custody as part of the deportation.
A family lands in South Sudan after being deported (Illustrative photo: Reuters)
According to the petitioners, the deportation program includes removing some 20 migrant children from boarding schools and other frameworks where they were placed when separated from their families by local welfare authorities. They claim that reuniting the children with their parents endangers them and are demanding that the High Court guarantee their safety.
The petitioners have clarified that they do not oppose all instances of reuniting migrant children and parents to deport them; rather, they say, they are asking decisions on reunification of migrant families be made after a thorough background check of each case and according to what is best for the children.
Furthermore, the petition argues, the Immigration Authority's Oz Unit does not have the legal authority to take children whom welfare authorities have removed from their parents' custody and return them to their mother and father without asking permission from the courts or welfare system.
Attorney Yonatan Berman, who is representing the organizations behind the petition, argues that "this is one of the most sensitive groups, children without (legal) standing in Israel who have suffered abuse and neglect."
Berman said that in the "heat of the deportation" fundamental issues regarding the obligations of authorities involved with minors had fallen by the wayside.
Furthermore, Berman added, the authorities responsible for the deportations could not "trample on rulings by the Youth Court and decisions that a (certain) child is in danger when in the custody of his or her parents."
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