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Community ‘miracle’ saves refugee family

5 March 20190 comments

It’s been called a “small miracle’ by the media and it’s one of those stories that almost restores your faith in human nature.

A church in Holland has protected a family of Armenian asylum seekers from being deported by holding a non-stop mass for almost three months.

Dutch law prevents police from entering a church during a religious service, so priests and locals set up the mass and kept it going using a rolling cast of volunteers.

Locals at the parish in The Hague say it was an incredible experience of human solidarity.

“A lot of people that came were not believers, and others who were. I think it was about a heart-warming story and charity, love for each other, like the church used to say,” neighbour Isolde Verburgt told local media.

“I felt like joining this initiative because I wanted to stand for all the children that should receive protection. That was the reason that led also other people to join,” she said.

The Tamrazyan family – Sasun, his wife Anousche and their children Hayarpi, 21, Warduhi, 19, and Seyran, 15 – fled Armenia nine years when Sasun was deemed to be an opponent of the government and targeted.

Once they arrived in the Netherlands, they sought asylum but after five years the authorities denied refugee status to the whole family.

The Tamrazyans then requested the so-called “Kinderpardon”, which guarantees asylum to families whose children have been living in the country for at least five years.

The situation was difficult for the Tamrazyan children, the youngest of whom started their studies in the Netherlands.

Faced with a deportation order, the family’s last option was to ask the Church for help.

Under pressure, the government granted asylum to the family and to another 700 cases.

Church spokesman Theo Hettema, chairman of the Hague council of protestant Churches, said common sense had won out in the end.

“We always have said to the government that we don’t want to take your seat; you have your own responsibility we want to cooperate, we want to think with you,” Mr Hettema said.

“But we also have our own norms and we should care about these people and we love our neighbour. We want to be serious about that and we will never stop doing that,” he said.

But with regional and European elections coming up, the Dutch government led by the liberal Mark Rutte has since tightened asylum regulations.

The so-called “Kinderpardon” will no longer apply and the country’s intake of refugees from UN camps will be cut from 750 to 500.


Laurie Nowell 

AMES Australia Senior Journalist