Dutch church's 97-day service wins Armenian refugees a home


A Dutch church's steadfast refusal to let a vulnerable Armenian immigrant family be deported has paid off. It took hundreds of volunteers to keep a marathon Mass going -- 24 hours a day, for 97 days -- but in the end the Tamrazyan family has been given permission to remain in the Netherlands, CBS News reports.

Late on Tuesday, January 29, the government said authorities would review the cases of many kids whose applications for asylum were rejected. "The expectation is that a large number of the rejected children will be eligible" for a residency permit, government minister Mark Harbers said. He told Dutch lawmakers that authorities would not deport any of the families while the review is conducted.

"The purpose of the church shelter was to provide safety for the family who had exhausted all legal remedies and to come to a solution for families in similar situations. Now that more than 600 rooted children and their parents can stay in the Netherlands, the intended result has been achieved," the church said in a statement.

It noted, however, that given the uncertain final outcome, the church "will always continue to fight for a humane reception of refugees."

Hayarpi Tamrazyan has lived in the Netherlands for nine years, but her family was denied asylum.

They fled Armenia because her father's political activism put the family at risk, and they sought sanctuary at the Protestant Bethel Church in The Hague to escape the deportation order.

Under an old and obscure Dutch law, police aren't allowed to make an arrest in the middle of a church service -- so the church kept the Mass going, for more than three months.

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