Monday, August 29, 2005

want to stay in Israel? your daughter must leave

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update - 01:38 29/08/2005
Want to stay in Israel? Pledge that your daughter will be leaving
By Relly Sa'arIsrael's citizenship law grants the right to permanent status to anyone who is not entitled to citizenship under the Law of Return but who is married to an Israeli citizen. Even so, the Interior Ministry does not automatically grant Israeli citizenship to non-Jews married to Jewish Israeli citizens. Such citizenship is granted gradually, over a five-year period, in an attempt to foil fictitious marriages and unwanted immigration from Third World countries.During the five-year "naturalization" period, the pair has to prove the credibility of their union as a married couple to clerks at the ministry's Population Registry. Only after five years have passed can the non-Jewish spouse become a citizen with equal rights.Sometimes, however, it seems that this is not enough. The Population Administration set an additional precondition for Tatiana Pesrenko, 34, who immigrated to Israel from Ukraine six years ago with her husband Alexander Solobiov. If she wanted Israeli citizenship, she would have to give up 9-year-old Veronica, her daughter from a previous marriage. About two months ago Pesrenko was notified that her citizenship process was being halted because her daughter was living in Israel."Your application for citizenship has been denied, and the head of the Population Administration (Sasi Katzir - R.S.) has decided to extend your temporary residency permit for six months," wrote Katzir's deputy, "during which time you are to take care of your daughter's departure from Israel."At the end of this month, Pesrenko's visa expires and she has applied to the Population Administration to extend it."Instead of granting me a visa for another year, as they have done until now," says Pesrenko, "the clerk said to me, `Do you want to stay in Israel? Sign here that your daughter will be leaving Israel within a few months. Otherwise, you'll get no A5 (the temporary residency permit - R.S.).'"Pesrenko refused to sign."How can the Interior Ministry ask a mother to give up her daughter?" she asks. "I have the right to live in Israel, so I came here with my husband. But I have no intention of giving up my primary right - to raise my own daughter, like any mother."Pesrenko and Solobiov met in Odessa 10 years ago. After three years of living together and after Pesrenko divorced her husband, she and Solobiov decided to marry. Solobiov immigrated to Israel in 1997, to prepare the economic foundation for his family, and then returned to Ukraine to marry his love. In 1999 they came to Israel and Pesrenko began her citizenship process. In 2004, according to standard procedure, Pesrenko should have received her citizenship, but that was the year her daughter came to live with her."Ever since Veronica came to Israel," says Pesrenko, "the Interior Ministry decided to forbid me from becoming a citizen, and insists that I have to expel her from Israel."Pesrenko had waged a years-long legal battle in the Ukrainian courts to get custody of her daughter, because her previous husband was not willing to give Veronica up without a struggle. Then Veronica became ill and her grandmother took care of her. Pesrenko says that she wanted to bring Veronica here sooner, but "without citizenship, there is also no medical insurance, and we had no money for a long hospitalization."Pesrenko intends to fight for her daughter's right to live in Israel, and even to be legally adopted by her husband, in the near future. Next week Veronica will be entering fourth grade."She acclimatized very well to school here," says Pesrenko. "She is an excellent student and her friends are constantly asking if things have been worked out yet with the Interior Ministry."After she failed in her attempt to convince the Interior Ministry clerks not to force her to give up her daughter, Pesrenko appealed to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. About two months ago, Attorney Oded Feller wrote to Katzir that the conditioning of Pesrenko's citizenship on her consent to deport her daughter was illegal, and quoted court rulings that establish a couple's right to legal status in Israel."The unlawful presence of a family member in Israel has no bearing on the eligibility of anyone else's status in Israel. The person applying for status is not in the service of the Interior Ministry or the Immigration Police, and does not have to provide information on anyone, to seek them out - or to deport them from Israel to be eligible for [the Interior Ministry's] services."This is illegal extortion. Such a demand presents a person legally eligible for status in Israel with a terrible choice - either not straightening out his own status, or deporting his relatives. Apart from being cruel, this is a demand that lacks any legal authority," Feller wrote.At the end of July, about a month after Feller wrote to Katzir, Deganit Rabi, the coordinator of requests from the public at Katzir's office, informed Pesrenko that Veronica would not be deported at this point and that her case was "under legal review." Another month passed and the Population Administration changed its policy again. A few days ago Pesrenko was again told to sign a commitment that her daughter would leave Israel."Tatiana Pesrenko's status was not made conditional on any demand," responded the Population Administration's spokesperson. "Evidence of this is that Pesrenko's gradual naturalization process and the granting of her citizenship is now nearing completion. At the same time, her application for the granting of similar status for her daughter is being examined as a unique case, in light of its complexity. At this stage the daughter's visa is being extended, until a decision is made in her case."The Interior Ministry does not condition the receipt of service on another service," continued the spokesperson. "Any request for service is examined on its own merits, without any connection to other services requested by the same person."
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