There is a law that prohibits Dutch Police from entering churches while services are being held. A church in the Netherlands is holding 24/7 services to protect a family seeking asylum and prevent them from deportation. Services have been holding in the church for over a month.
The Protestant Church in the Hague which is a local branch of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands is protecting the Tamrazyans from deportation. The Tamrazyans are a family of five that have lived in the Netherlands for about 5 years.
The government has denied the asylum request of the Tamrazyans and has approved them for deportation. They did this despite the fact that there is a law that allows children that have lived in the country for over 5 years to be eligible for a residence permit provided that they fulfill some requirements. The Tamrazyans filled their application for a permit under that law, but their application was denied.
Since Dutch law prevents police officers from entering worship centers during religious services, the church members decided to hold a continuous worship service at Bethel which is a community center and church in the Hague. So, the Tamrazyans continued to take shelter in the church.
On October 26th at 1:30, the continuous worship service started, and it hasn’t been over since then. The family stays in the building continuously since they can be arrested when they go outside.
The Tamrazyans were afraid to go back to their native country of Armenia because the father had been threatened back there for his political activism. In September, the Tamrazyans learned that the government was planning to deport them. Then they took refuge in a church in Katwijk. But things became tenuous and the Protestant Church The Hague agreed to take over from the smaller church and the family were moved to Bethel. Today, the Tamrazyans have the backing of the largest Protestant denomination in the Netherlands.
Bethel has about 400 ministers and lays people that help to conduct the worship services. Supporters from the community also help to attend services and purchase groceries for the family. About 3500 visitors have been invited from all over the Netherlands to come to Bethel to support the Tamrazyans.
Attendance during the services vary. Lowest is two people at night, and the highest is about 100 people on Sunday mornings. Sometimes the Tamrazyans attend the services. Other times, they stay in a private room in the church.
The church leaders issued a press release where they said that they respected court orders, but they had to protect the rights of children. The church leaders said that they were open to discussion with politicians about the family’s request for asylum and how the Netherlands treats children seeking asylum and hoping to get residence permits.
There are about 400 estimated cases of child asylum cases that have been living in the Netherlands for over 5 years. It is said that churches have opened their doors to help asylum seekers at least 52 times. But a continuous church service was not needed to prevent entry by the police which made this case unique.
The church plans to continue accommodating the family and the church service still continues. The church says they do not know how long the church service will take.