Thursday, 10 February 2011

In Israel, partner of gay massacre victim ordered out

Thomas Schmidt with friends
Update: The day after this post, resulting international media coverage and a petition being started Israel’s interior ministry issued Thomas with a temporary visa.

Source: Ynet

By Tzahi Cohen

Thomas Schmidt lost his partner in the Tel Aviv GLBT community bar shooting 18 months ago. Now he is going to lose the life he built in Israel: The Interior ministry is insisting on deporting him from Israel by the end of the month.

Thomas Schmidt, 27, is a German citizen with temporary resident status in Israel. On Sunday the Interior Ministry told him that his visa was about to expire and that he would have to leave Israel by the end of the month – after more than six years in Israel.

Schmidt came to Israel in 2004 as a volunteer. A year later he met Nir Katz and the two became a couple. Katz's family – his mother, her partner Gili Shenhav and their five other children - took Schmidt in as one of the family. Schmidt, who had little contact with his family in Germany, found a loving home.

On August 1, 2009, Katz, whose father was killed in the IDF Zeelim base disaster, was murdered in a shooting attack at the Tel Aviv GLBT club where he was a councilor.

Katz, who was 26 when he died, left behind his life partner. After his murder, Katz's mother Ayala appealed to the Interior Ministry to allow Schmidt to remain in Israel. "In our minds, Schmidt is a member of the family in every way that counts," she explained to the Population Administration.

She noted that even after her son's murder, the family remained in contact with his lover: He was invited to Friday night dinners, celebrated birthdays together and was at the family table at a wedding.

In spite of her plea the Interior Ministry refuses to allow Schmidt to stay in Israel permanently. In an exclusive interview with Yedioth Ahronoth this weekend, Schmidt declares that he is determined to fight the decision. "My whole life is in Israel. My friends, my job, my family," he said.
"If I go back to Germany now I need to start from scratch. I'll be displaced and alone – with no one. My family is the Katz-Shenhar family. I feel Israeli. I love this country and see my future here. I hope to be promoted in my workplace and enjoy the family that has taken me in like a son."
The Association for Civil Rights is set to appeal to the courts to direct the Interior Ministry to extend Schmidt's visa by a year and demands that he then receive permanent residency.

Yet the Interior Ministry stated:
"We have acted with leniency - his visa has already been extended by nine months. At the end of that period he will be requested to leave the country. We believe that efforts have been made to take his unique situation into consideration in addition to the fact that he will be able to visit Israel whenever he wishes to do so."
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