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article imageReprieve for church asylum family after Dutch parliament deal

By AFP     Jan 30, 2019 in World

A Dutch church said Wednesday it would finally halt a marathon three-month-long religious service aimed at stopping the deportation of an Armenian family after a parliamentary deal was struck that will allow them to stay.

The Tamrazyan family has been sheltering in the Bethel church in The Hague since October, fighting their deportation by taking advantage of a Dutch law that authorities cannot enter while a service is underway.

On Tuesday night the ruling four-party coalition in the Dutch parliament reached a deal over so-called "children's pardons" for young deportees.

The church on Wednesday "is stopping the continuous services held since October 26," said Theo Hettema, a member of the church's management.

"Tuesday's political deal now offers families like the Tamrazyans a safe future perspective in the Netherlands," he said in a statement.

The Tamrazyan family fled Armenia after the father received death threats for his political activities and have been in the Netherlands for nine years.

They took shelter at the church after Dutch authorities turned down their request for asylum but appealed on the grounds that it would affect the children, aged 21, 19 and 14.

The parliamentary deal -- initially opposed by Prime Minister Mark Rutte's centre-right VVD party -- will now look again at the thorny issue of some 700 children, who were born and raised in the Netherlands while their parents were applying for asylum.

The three other coalition parties were all in favour of a general amnesty and tough talks followed which at one stage threatened to split the fragile ruling alliance.

There will now be a "broad arrangement for 'existing cases' of parents with children rooted in the Netherlands, but who were not allowed to stay," the NOS public newscaster said.

The current group will be reassessed and the expectation is that some 90 percent of them will be allowed to stay, the NOS added.

Because parents would also not be allowed to be deported, it involved around 1,300 children and adults, the NOS said.

This included the Tamrazyan family, another church spokesman Derk Stegeman told the ANP news agency, "after being assured by various coalition MPs".

Stegeman said it was a "reason for joy".

The eldest of the children, Hayarpi Tamrazyan, 21, said she hoped the deal would allow her to "continue with my life".

But she told reporters at a news conference at the church the family did not "officially" know that they were allowed to stay.

"They have reached an agreement and that agreement says 'we are going to re-evaluate the dossiers'. Therefore we don't know officially that we may stay because that dossier still has to be judged," Tamrazyan said.

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