Family Protected From Deportation By Continuous Worship Service Gets Dutch Residence Permit

For over three months, a church in the Netherlands held nonstop services to keep the Tamrazyans from being sent back to Armenia.

A Netherlands church is celebrating after learning that an Armenian family of asylum-seekers ― whom it shielded from deportation through a round-the-clock worship servicewill be allowed to remain in the country. 

The Protestant Church of The Hague announced Tuesday that the Tamrazyans, a family of five, have received a residence permit from the Dutch government. 

The Rev. Theo Hettema, a church spokesperson, told HuffPost that it is “very glad” for the Tamrazyans.

“We are grateful to God,” he wrote in an email. “And we appreciate that we have played a part, together with other organisations in the Netherlands, in establishing this result.”

Hayarpi Tamrazyan, the family’s eldest daughter, shared the news on Twitter Tuesday, thanking supporters and offering a poem in celebration of the news.  

From Oct. 26 to Jan. 30, the Tamrazyans lived inside Bethel Church, a Hague chapel linked to the Protestant Church of The Hague, to avoid imminent deportation. A rotating roster of 1,000 pastors from around the Netherlands held a nonstop worship service during that time, taking advantage of an old Dutch law that bars police from entering houses of worship during religious services. 

The continuous worship service ended after the country’s political parties agreed to a compromise that gave certain families’ asylum applications another chance. The policy change allowed these families to remain in the Netherlands while the cases were reviewed, according to the NL Times, an English-language Dutch news website.

The relaxed rules mean that over 1,000 children’s applications will be reconsidered, De Telegraaf reports.  

But the political compromise also included new policies that will make it harder for other asylum-seekers to argue that they should stay in the Netherlands because their children have established roots in the country.

Hettema said that the compromise was the best result he could have hoped for in January and that it accomplished more than his church imagined was possible when it started the continuous worship service in October.

He said the church remains hopeful that the new policies will result in the “humane” consideration of asylum-seekers’ applications to stay in the Netherlands.

“We pray for wisdom for our government,” Hettema said. 

A spokesman for the Netherlands’ immigration and naturalization service told HuffPost that it cannot comment on individual cases. 

Hayarpi Tamrazyan at a press conference in Bethel Church in The Hague, Netherlands, on Dec. 13, 2018. Her family lived inside
Hayarpi Tamrazyan at a press conference in Bethel Church in The Hague, Netherlands, on Dec. 13, 2018. Her family lived inside the chapel for more than three months to avoid deportation to Armenia.

The Tamrazyans have lived in the Netherlands for nine years. The church said they fear going back to Armenia because the family patriarch, Sasun Tamrazyan, has been threatened for his political activism

Along with the Tamrazyans, several other families have recently received residence permits, the Protestant Church of The Hague stated.

This story has been updated with a response from the Dutch government. 



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