In Brief

Asylum seeker family saved by 96-day church service

Dutch government grants amnesty for Armenian refugees being sheltered under medieval law

A family of asylum seekers who faced deportation from the Netherlands has been given a reprieve after a church staged an epic 96-day service to shield them from immigration officials.

Sasun and Anousche Tamrazyan and their children Hayarpi, 21, Warduhi, 19, and Seyran, 15, have received assurances from Dutch officials that they will be among hundreds of families granted permanent residency under an amnesty agreed by the coalition government this week.

The Tamrazyans have lived in the Netherlands for nine years, after fleeing their native Armenia when Sasun received death threats because of his political activism.

In October they were notified that they were to be removed from their adopted country, after their application for political asylum was rejected following years of legal wrangling.

But a medieval-era Dutch law that bans authorities from entering a place of worship during a service allowed the family to claim refuge in the Bethel Protestant church in The Hague.

For 96 days, they have been living in the church while around 450 pastors from various denominations and lay volunteers preached for a total of 2,327 hours, CNN reports.

The reprieve, expected to affect 630 child refugees and their families, was agreed late on Tuesday night following “intense debate within the coalition government”, says The Guardian.

The families had applied for a “children’s pardon”, a special dispensation which can be granted in cases where children have lived in the Netherlands for more than five years, but which has been “patchily applied”, adds the newspaper.

The new amnesty, agreed by lawmakers from Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right party and coalition partners from progressive and right-wing parties, will see the children’s pardon taken off the statute books.

However, the head of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service will be given discretionary powers in future cases similar to that of the Tamrazyans.

Theo Hettema, chairman of the General Council of Protestant Ministers in the Netherlands, applauded the government’s decision.

“We are extremely grateful for a safe future for hundreds of refugee families in the Netherlands,” he said.

“For months we have held up hope, and now that hope is taking shape.”

Recommended

Is a fresh conflict flaring up in Kosovo?
Nato soldiers serving in Kosovo patrol next to a road barricade set up by ethnic Serbs near the town of Zubin Potok
Fact file

Is a fresh conflict flaring up in Kosovo?

Gas supplies: will Putin turn off the taps?
An employee of Russian energy giant Gazprom
Talking point

Gas supplies: will Putin turn off the taps?

How long will Ukraine’s grain deal last?
Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Getting to grips with . . .

How long will Ukraine’s grain deal last?

How Germany’s energy-saving measures will affect ordinary people
The statue of Frederick the Great its lights turned off in Berlin on 27 July
Getting to grips with . . .

How Germany’s energy-saving measures will affect ordinary people

Popular articles

Is World War Three on the cards?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Is World War Three on the cards?

Will China invade Taiwan?
Chinese troops on mobile rocket launchers during a parade in Beijing
Fact file

Will China invade Taiwan?

Best new TV crime dramas of 2022
Roger Allam and Nancy Carroll in Murder in Provence
In Depth

Best new TV crime dramas of 2022

The Week Footer Banner