Israel breaks up foreign worker couples by denying employment permits

Angelica (not her real name) is a 30-year-old caregiver from the Philippines – and if she wants to keep her job, she’s not allowed to conduct a romantic relationship. When her 9-month-old son was 2 months old, Angelica was forced to leave him with her family in the Philippines. She hasn’t seen him since.
For a foreign caregiver in Israel, relationships and family life aren’t possible. Most of these workers are from Asia and Eastern Europe; they come to save money to support their families. The work is demanding with few hours of rest and almost no vacation. Those who do manage to conduct a relationship are forced to hide it. If the Population, Immigration and Border Authority discovers it, the employees may well lose their jobs.
The workers’ rights group Kav La’Oved has received reports that the population authority’s pressure on foreign workers to report romantic relationships has grown in recent months. At the authority’s order, the agencies responsible for foreign caregivers have begun requiring pregnant workers or new mothers to provide details on the baby’s father. In some cases, the authority has also pressured employers to provide information on caregivers’ relationships. If the authority learns of a romantic relationship between two foreign workers, it requires one of them to leave Israel as a condition for extending the other’s work permit. In most cases, requests from the caregivers’ clients, who often become emotionally attached to their caregivers, don’t help.
Angelica came to Israel three years ago. She met a man who works as a caregiver and the two became a couple. Early last year she discovered she was pregnant and was soon fired. The population authority asked Angelica for details on the father, but she refused because she knew he was married to another woman in the Philippines. A month later, she found a new job as a caregiver for an elderly woman. The agency that coordinates between patients and foreign workers — and does the paperwork for securing work permits — asked her for information on her baby’s father and their relationship. Without such information, she could not receive a new work permit, the agency said. Angelica gave in and supplied the father’s details. Two months later her employer received a letter from the population authority saying she could not be issued a new work permit because the father was still working in Israel.
The authority set a condition for the work permit: One of the two parents must leave Israel. Angelica told the authority she was no longer in contact with the father and he wasn’t supporting their son. To renew her permit, she had to sign a declaration stating that if she again conducted a romantic relationship, she would report it within a week. The authority even required her elderly employer to provide a statement on Angelica’s romantic relationships. Angelica says she’s a devoted employee whose privacy is being invaded. “I take one day off a month, sometimes even less,” she says. “I’m always working 24 hours, seven days a week.”
As she puts it, “I’m angry; it’s unfair. I’m a human being; it’s normal to want a relationship. Why does the agency ask about my private life? Why do they need to know if I’m in a relationship or not? It’s not connected to my work.”

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