A small miracle happened in a residential neighborhood of The Hague. A church protected a family of Armenians from being deported. Priests and neighbors set up a non-stop mass for three months, as Dutch law prevents police from entering during a religious service.
It was an incredible experience of human solidarity, Isolde Verburgt, a close neighbor remembers.
“A lot of people that came were not believers, other yes. I think it was about heartwarming and charity, love for each other, like the church used to say. 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”.
The Tamrazyan family had fled nine years ago from Armenia because the father was considered an opponent of the government. Once they arrived in the Netherlands, they had sought asylum but after five years the authorities have denied the refugee status to the whole family.
The Tamrazyan had 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 quite difficult for the children of the family (the youngest is 12 years old), who had started their studies in the Netherlands.
Faced with a deportation executive order, the family had no other option but to ask the Church for help.
Under pressure, the government granted asylum to the family and to another 700 cases. It was a necessary step Theo Hettema, chairman of the Hague council of protestant Church explains.
“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. But we also have our own norms and we should care about these people and we love our neighbor. We want to be serious about that and we will never stop doing that”.
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.