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  • Dutch law prohibits authorities from entering a church building while a service is underway.

    Dutch law prohibits authorities from entering a church building while a service is underway. | Photo: Reuters file

Published 31 January 2019

The Tamrazyans have lived in the Netherlands for nearly nine years and was processing paperwork before a court ruling ordered them to leave the country.

A church in the Netherlands, which was holding a 96-day round-the-clock vigil to prevent an Armenian family from being deported, has stopped the service after authorities decide to amend the country’s immigration policy.

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“They have reached an agreement, and that agreement says, ‘We are going to re-evaluate the dossiers,’” asylum-seeker Hayarpi Tamrazyan stated at a news conference, following a stay of deportation but adding, “therefore, we don’t know officially that we may stay, because that dossier still has to be judged.”

Dutch law prohibits authorities from entering a church building while a service is underway. 

The round-the-clock service began on October 26 to protect the Tamrazyan family — which consist of parents, two daughters and a son. The Bethel Church was finally able to end the 24-7 service Wednesday after the Dutch government announced Tuesday that there would be changes to the immigration policy.

“This is just the beginning,” Derk Stegeman, one of the organizers of the Bethel service. “I hope it’s a new way of being a church — a new way of having an impact on society, a new way of standing up for vulnerable people. There’s still a big tension in our society, a strong division and polarization between these two groups,” he said, adding that he hoped the movement could spark “a new attitude towards strangers and refugees.”

Pastors from across Europe, some accompanied by congregants, visited Bethel during the service to participate, while more than 250,000 people signed a petition calling for a law change.

The combined services are recorded as one of the longest religious ceremonies, lasting for more than three months and involving nearly 1,000 clergymen.

"We are incredibly grateful for a safe future in the Netherlands for hundreds of refugee families," church official Theo Hettema said in a statement.

The ruling coalition administration disclosed that there will be reviews of hundreds of asylum applications, by children, that previously were rejected. Dutch media reported that about 700 children will be affected.

“The expectation is that a large number of the rejected children will be eligible” for a residency permit, the government minister in charge of immigration issues, Mark Harbers, explained at a news briefing, adding that no children or their families will be deported while the review is being conducted.

The Tamrazyans have lived in the Netherlands for nearly nine years and was processing paperwork before a court ruling ordered them to leave the country - after the Netherlands deemed their home country safe and, hence, does not justify asylum.

The family had reportedly fled political persecution in 2010 from Armenia, according to advocates.


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