Toddlers to protest against deportation of classmate's dad
By Yuval Azoulay
An entire day-care facility in Ramat Aviv has enlisted in an unusual cause: some 20 toddlers will be taking their first democratic action this evening, aimed at keeping together the family of Jarmay Marlay Manar, their nursery school playmate until recently and the daughter of foreign workers from the Philippines and Ghana.
Tonight, her father will be deported from Israel after having been caught without a legal residency permit. The children, their parents, day-care center staff and activists who aid foreign workers will try to do the seemingly impossible and change the Interior Ministry's mind. Meanwhile, in this race against time, the father's lawyer will try to get an urgent stay of execution from court.
"Our primary motive is the girl's best interest," says Michal Ban-Nun, the mother of a classmate, Noam. "This matter touches us very personally. We knew this child and her parents and were exposed to the special bond between her and her father. The only thing we can do is protest, for the good of the child and her father."
Marlay was born two years and eight months ago to Ramdius Kizagan, 42, from the Philippines and Joel Mema Manar, 46, from Ghana. The couple met while working as cleaners in Ramat Aviv, fell in love and married six years ago. Marlay's arrival was a dream come true, Joel said: She was born following fertility treatments that cost them a lot of money. The delivery was a difficult one.
Becoming pregnant rendered Ramdius an illegal worker, and she was fired from her job. She later found a position that included boarding, with one day off a week, which she spent with her newly expanded family. Joel, who worked until his arrest three weeks ago as a driver for the priest of the Ghanian church in Haifa, raised Marlay nearly on his own.
At the hearings after his arrest, Joel repeatedly argued that he is his daughter's sole caregiver - sufficient reason to secure his release. But the Immigration Administration and Interior Ministry claim otherwise. They say that Joel tried to get out of custody on the grounds that he is married and has a daughter - which was ultimately to his detriment.
"He was largely the one who took care of her," says Anat Turjeman, director of Anat's Gan in Ramat Aviv, which Marlay attended until last October.
"He would arrive with Marlay, dressed in a very distinguished manner. We used to think he was a diplomat living here," Michal Ban-Nun recalled. Another mother, Yael, expressed the indignation of the parents planning tonight's protest: "The state takes the father of a child and separates her parents heartlessly and without thinking. We will try to prevent this by any means."
Since Joel's arrest, according to a psychotherapist's opinion, Marlay has undergone "a traumatic separation from her father." Since she was born, Joel was the dominant and stable figure in her life. "The child is very attached to her father. It is clear beyond a doubt that the child is in great distress, and communicates this in every possible way. She wakes up at night, cries frequently and appears sad. She stares into space and falls asleep numerous times during the day. Previously, she was lively and happy. She has lost a lot of weight," the expert reported.
Today, attorney Tal Proshan is planning an urgent petition to the Tel Aviv District Court to issue an injunction preventing Joel's deportation.
"Thousands of foreign workers in similar situations are released in return for appropriate bail so they have time to take care of matters before being deported. They have to unload the apartment, possessions. The couple is in an advanced stage of proceedings for a visa to the United States. In the meantime they need to decide where they want to return: to the Philippines or Ghana. It's not a simple question. I am simply astounded by the robotic behavior of the Interior Ministry, which does not exercise judgment in such a humanitarian case," he said.