Migrant workers (illustrative)
Migrant workers (illustrative)Flash90

The Administrative Court has accepted an appeal against the decision of the Population and Immigration Authority to deport a Philippine national allegedly in a relationship with an Israeli, despite the fact that the Population and Immigration Authority has argued that the two people concerned are not in a “deep relationship” and that the Philippine national involved is simply a migrant worker who wishes to support her family abroad via her work in Israel.

Attorney Dr. Yonah Sherki, the legal adviser of the Israel Center for Migrant Policy, addressed the case and the issues arising from it, including the question as to whether it is realistic or even possible for a court to define what constitutes a “deep relationship.between a couple.” Potentially, this ruling opens the door to all kinds of similar cases, he noted.

“The policies of the Administrative Courts are to investigate these issues in minute detail,” Sherki says. “The Interior Ministry has criteria that define what kind of relationship qualifies for allowing a foreign partner to remain in Israel and to receive a formal status, but of course there are always those who try to exploit the laws,” Dr. Sherki notes.

“What then happens in many cases is that the case is submitted to the Court, which then rules according to recommendations it receives, if it finds them to be true and accurate.

“However, if the Administrative Court judge is unfamiliar with the issue of how and when marital or relationship status can confer residence rights, then he will likely be unaware of all the factors the Authority takes into account when assessing the relationship concerned. In such cases, as here, the Court may rule against the recommendations of the Interior Ministry, even though the Authority conducted a professional investigation whereas the judge himself is not an expert in the issues involved.”

Sherki stresses that this particular incident is just the “tip of the iceberg of this wide-ranging phenomenon of fictitious unions made in order to gain residency.” He stresses that he does not mean to pass comment on this specific instance, as he is not familiar with the details, but relates to the phenomenon as a whole.

“We are witness to a wide-ranging phenomenon of attempts to hoodwink the system with fictitious unions in order to obtain Israeli status for migrants. This also leads in many instances to abuse of these women (and their children), who were motivated by the desire to be able to work here legally. Very often, such a woman looks around for someone willing to pose as her partner, and is prepared to render certain services in return. Sometimes, these women fall victim serious violence from the fictitious partner, and the Welfare Department has to get involved in these complicated cases, especially when there are children involved and paternity claims emerge,” he explains.

“The main issue here is the concerted attempt to deceive the system that is supposed to professionally assess the veracity of the relationship, and when the Court, which is not sufficiently aware of the way in which the Authority operates, nonetheless intervenes, it leads to a very complicated situation.” Sherki also points out that every ruling in favor of the migrant gaining Israeli residency makes it easier for the next such case to be similarly addressed.

“The Court takes the criteria that are used to investigate the relationships, and then strips them of legitimacy, using instead progressive arguments such as, ‘Who can really judge what constitutes a relationship?’ which leaves the Authority unable to do its work and establish where a genuine relationship exists and where it does not. That’s why this decision is so problematic. Now we are waiting to see how the Authority will deal with it.”

According to Dr. Sherki, “The Population and Immigration Authority will need to examine the possibility of appealing this decision and arguing that the Court cannot simply ignore the criteria according o which the Authority operates in order to decide what constitutes proof of a genuine relationship.”

Dr. Sherki also emphasizes that, “The Administrative Court’s ruling is not binding [in future cases] but rather supposed to provide guidance – however, in practice, such ‘guidance’ is not something that can simply be ignored in future cases or appeals, in the event that the case is argued before the Supreme Court.”