Church in non-stop services to save refugees deportation

[Photo: Courtesy]

Over the last month, hundreds of pastors from all over the Netherlands have taken turns holding non-stop service at a Protestant church in the Hague, where a family of Armenian refugees scheduled for deportation has taken shelter.

Dutch law prevents police from entering places of worship during prayers, and religious leaders are determined to continue the service for as long as it takes authorities to reconsider their decision.

The Tamrazyan family fled their native Armenia in 2009, after receiving death threats due to the father’s political activism.

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They sought asylum in the Netherlands and after going through a seven-year application process, a judge granted the family asylum.

However, the Dutch Government successfully appealed that decision in court, and in September, Sasun Tamrazyan, his wife Anousche and their three children were officially notified that their asylum status had been lifted.

No longer feeling safe in the asylum centre they had been assigned to, the Tamrazyan family sought shelter at the Gereformeerde Kerk (GKV) church, in Katwijk, of which they had become members three years ago.

They were welcome with open arms. But despite the church offering the Armenian family shelter, there was nothing keeping Dutch authorities from storming in and taking the refugees into custody.

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That’s when the Bethel Protestant Church in The Hague stepped in to offer them greater protection.

Pastors from all over the country have been coming to Bethel to take part in a relay-style service that has been ongoing for over 700 hours. “We hope the family gets a permit to stay in the Netherlands for two reasons,” GKV Katwijk said in a statement to Euronews.

“The father of the family runs a great chance of being killed in Armenia. And the children have been living in the Netherlands for nine years and are rooted here.”

According to Dutch media, The Tamrazyans had also applied for Children’s Pardon, a program that allows refugee families with children who have resided in the Netherlands for more than five years to obtain a residence permit, but their application was rejected.

However, the religious leaders who took in the Armenian family on October 26 are determined to continue their ongoing service at Bethel Church until authorities reconsider their decision.

Support for the Tamrazyan family and the church’s efforts to keep them safe has been overwhelming, with hundreds of people from both the Netherlands and abroad attending the non-stop service and pleading with the Government via the internet.

The non-stop service is currently in its fifth week, and Bethel Church is still looking for volunteer pastors to take part in the relay, particularly pastors willing to perform the service during the night.

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