Parent of stranded surrogate children goes on hunger strike

Man whose partner remains stuck in Thailand with their newborn twins demonstrates outside interior minister’s home

Illustrative: Eran Pnini Koren and Avi Koren, a gay Israeli couple, with their child conceived through a surrogacy procedure in Thailand. (Facebook)
Illustrative: Eran Pnini Koren and Avi Koren, a gay Israeli couple, with their child conceived through a surrogacy procedure in Thailand. (Facebook)

One of the parents whose newborn twins are stuck in Thailand went on a hunger strike in front of Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s residence Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t eat until his children are given Israeli citizenship.

The man, Ruby Israeli-Halbreich, told Israel Radio that he would starve himself in front of Sa’ar’s house until his children and same-sex partner, who remained in Thailand along with the newborns, are allowed to come home to Israel.

On Tuesday, as activists stepped up their efforts to bring home same-sex couples stuck in Thailand with their newborn or soon-to-be-born babies, Israeli officials claimed that only two of the couples had formally applied for Israeli passports for the infants at the embassy in Bangkok.

In a joint Foreign Ministry, Population and Immigration Authority, and Justice Ministry statement, officials wrote that even those two couples also failed to produce certification verifying that the birth mothers had surrendered custody of the children.

Surrogacy in Thailand was complicated by a recently introduced Thai law under which babies are automatically granted citizenship according to the citizenship of their birth mothers. Birth mothers also have full custody of the children, and any attempts to take a Thai baby out of the country can be construed as kidnapping.

If the paperwork is submitted to the ambassador, Israeli passports would be issued to the babies immediately, the Israeli statement said. However, it also stressed that even an Israeli passport did not guarantee that Thai authorities would allow a couple to leave the country with their baby.

But activists involved in the process dismissed the government’s claims and said applicants were told that the embassy could not help them.

“There are 15 couples in Thailand now. Do you think that they’re just sitting there and not going to the ambassador?” Israeli-Halbreich, one of the leaders of the online campaign, told The Times of Israel on Tuesday. “When we got there they told us there was no point in coming.”

Ruby also denied allegations that the birth mothers did not provide the signatures required to sign off their rights to the children, and said that at one point a birth mother was even brought to the ambassador, but was swiftly turned away. Ruby also spent time in Thailand but recently returned to Israel in order to raise awareness of the issue.

The couples were told to contact various Israeli offices, including the Interior and Foreign ministries.

The Israeli statement only proved that various arms of government didn’t know what other arms were doing, Israeli-Halbreich said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel that the couples were misguided. Bringing the birth mothers to the embassy had no bearing on the proceedings, he maintained. Instead, the couples had to seek out a Thai lawyer to draw up documents recognized by the local authorities and signed by the mothers.

He addressed the discrepancy between the government statement and claims by activists as to the number of couples who came to the embassy, claiming that while there may have been more than two couples who reached out to the embassy, only two of them had filled out an application.

While advocacy efforts have conflated the issue of gaining Israeli citizenship with permission to leave the country, Israeli authorities maintain that the two are distinct issues.

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