A Church Held a 96 Day Service for a Refugee Family


(Photo By: Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times)

Safa Hameed and Amanda Mugari

For 96 days, since October 26, a church in the Netherlands has held a 24/7 hour church service to prevent a family from being deported, on account of the old Dutch law that barres authorities from entering church grounds during service.

The Protestant Church of The Hague, or the Bethel Church, has held nonstop religious service for an the Armenian Tamrayzen family. The family has been living in the Netherlands for nine years, and, recently, their plea for political asylum had been denied because the Netherlands deems Armenia a “safe” country. The family, on the other hand, protested saying that they can’t go back to Armenia because they are scared for their family’s safety, due to the father’s political activism against their current government.

So, ever since it was announced that they were getting deported, the Bethel Church offered to shelter them from the authorities. They church leaders found a loophole in the Dutch law that denies authorities access to church grounds while a religious service is playing at any given time. To help with the three-month church service, over 400 ministers came from all across the Netherlands to hold services. Not to mention, an average 100 people per day came to the church in support of the Tamrayzens.

On January 26, the Dutch government reached a decision that allows families who have resisted deportation to apply for asylum again by having their cases reviewed. Previously, families who resisted deportation, like the Tamrayzens, were not eligible for case revision. This new law could affect up to 700 children and their families, 90% of whom will most likely be granted asylum.

However, the Dutch government demanded a comprise for the loosening up of asylum laws. This compromise came in the form of terminating the “child’s pardon” act, a law which states that refugee families with children who have stayed in the Netherlands for five years can apply for residential permits.

Although this was a win for the Tamrayzen family, there are still consequences to be taken into account for the updated immigration policies. Many families seeking refugee in the Netherlands will now find it difficult to apply for asylum, without the “child’s pardon” law that would have allowed them to stay in the country.

To end off the week, the Dutch government released statements regarding the new and past immigration laws. Mark Herbers, the Minister of Migration of the Netherlands, stated, “What we have done is build a system for the future where you do not give people hope for a residency permit who should not have hope.” He closed his speech by explaining that, “You have to resign yourself to what the judge decides and not think that because your case gets [a] lot of attention afterwards, you will still be allowed to stay.”