News from Europe

Dutch church holds 24/7 service for over a month now to save Christian refugee family from deportation from Europe

A church in the Netherlands is holding an around-the-clock service that has lasted more than 900 hours, to shield a family from deportation of Armenian family. Under Dutch law, police officers are not permitted to enter a church while a religious service is taking place. The Tamrazyan family fled Armenia over fears for their safety. For the last three years, the family have been members of the Gereformeerde Kerk (Reformed Churches in the Netherlands) in the coastal municipality of Katwijk, residing in a local centre for asylum seekers.


CNN, the New York Times and Time magazine are among the dozens of news organisations worldwide covering the progress of an Armenian family living in a Dutch church to avoid deportation. Church officials have organised round-the-clock services at the Bethel church in The Hague so that police officers cannot enter and pick up the Tamrazyan family, who were told in September that they would be sent back to Armenia.

On Sunday December 9, the service in Bethel church in The Hague entered its 45th day with the help of 450 volunteer pastors – including Roman Catholics and lay preachers – to protect the Tamrazyan family from arrest with a running a continuous service.

Theo Hettema, chairman of the general council of the Protestant church in The Hague, says that although 52 people have taken refuge in a Dutch church in the past decade, for some reason this is the first time that police have insisted they will only respect the sanctuary if a service is in progress.

Under a Dutch law originating from the Old Testament and common law in the Middle Ages, police may not enter a church during a service.

The continuous service began on October 26 and has now been going for over a month, attracting worshippers and pastors from all over the country. ‘I have lost count of the number of sermons about the Good Samaritan that have been delivered,’ pastor Axel Wicke said.

The church has no plans to stop its campaign, even though junior immigration minister Mark Harbers has refused to use his powers of discretion to allow the family to stay. Which he could manage any time.

‘We evaluate regularly, with the team and also with the family,’ Wicke said on Twitter. ‘So far, we still receive massive support and can fill the rota pretty well. So we keep going, also because there still are many talks going on with politicians behind the curtains, some of which give reason to hope.’

Special service for 45 days

The family, which has children of 21, 19, and 15, has been living in the Netherlands for nine years. Father Sasun Tamrazyan, 43, had been politically active in an opposition party in Armenia and claimed political asylum.  Oldest daughter Hayarpi, who studies econometrics at Tilburg University, her sister, brother and parents had lived at a refugee centre in Katwijk before moving into the church. Hayarpi said in a Twitter message in September that:

Her family was granted refugee status at three separate court hearings but that the Dutch state went to appeal each time. They were eventually rejected three years ago.

A spokesman for the Dutch immigration services Lennart Wegewijs said the government was fielding media requests from all around the world. “Our policy is the same as it always has been: we do not comment on individual cases,” he said.



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