Islamic State wives start repatriation case in Netherlands

FILE PHOTO: Women stand together al-Hol displacement camp in Hasaka governorate, Syria, April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho/File Phoro

Islamic State wives start repatriation case in Netherlands
THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Lawyers for 23 women who joined Islamic State from the Netherlands asked a judge on Friday to order the Netherlands to repatriate them and their 56 young children from camps in Syria.

The women and children were living in “deplorable conditions” in the al-Hol camp in Northern Syria, lawyer Andre Seebregts said in court.

He added that their situation had significantly worsened due to the Turkish incursion into Syria and the possibility of Syrian forces taking control of the camps which were controlled by the Kurds until now.

The Dutch government has stressed that it is too dangerous for Dutch officials to go into the camps and find the women to return them to the Netherlands.

Lawyers for the state repeated that argument in court and added that the women did not have the right to Dutch consular assistance in the camps.

According to the Red Cross some 68,000 defeated fighters of Islamic State and their families are held in the al-Hol camp. They were held under the custody of Syrian Kurdish forces after they took the jihadist group’s last enclave.

According to figures from the Dutch intelligence Agency as of Oct. 1 there are 55 Islamic State militants who traveled from the Netherlands and at least 90 children with Dutch parents, or parents who had lived for a considerable time in the Netherlands, in Northern Syria.

The court will deliver a verdict on Nov 11.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Dutch psychologists helping probe over family found locked away in room

Dutch psychologists helping probe over family found locked away in room
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch police called in psychologists to help them get to the bottom of what happened to a family found locked away in a farmhouse room where they appeared to have lived in seclusion for years.

Police discovered six people, who claimed to be five siblings and their ailing father, at the farm in the north of the Netherlands on Monday after a tip from a man believed to be a brother who said he had escaped.

Police detained the 67-year-old man believed to be the father of the family on Thursday on charges of unlawful detention, a form of abuse and money laundering. The last charge related to a cache of cash discovered at the farm.

On Tuesday, a 58-year-old man who paid the rent on the farmhouse was taken into custody on similar charges.

“We have called in specialized help,” police spokesman Anthony Hogeveen said on Friday, adding that more than four days after the discovery of the family, investigators were still in the dark about how the family ended up in the room.

“This is an extraordinary situation. With a team of psychologists we are trying to understand what we see,” police chief Janny Knol said in a Dutch television interview.

Police said the children were never registered at birth and had never gone to school, both of which are required by law in the Netherlands. “Basically we know nothing of them,” Knol said.

The six people found in the locked room have been moved to accommodation in a holiday park.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Man held after Dutch family found locked away in secret farmhouse room

Man held after Dutch family found locked away in secret farmhouse room
By Hilde Verweij

RUINERWOLD, Netherlands (Reuters) – A man who paid the rent on a Dutch farmhouse where six members of a family were found locked away in a secret room will appear in court on Thursday on charges of unlawful detention and harming others’ health, prosecutors said.

Five siblings, estimated to be aged between 18 and 25, and a man they identified as their ailing father were found at the farm near Ruinerwold, a village in the province of Drenthe where they had apparently lived in isolation for years.

The 58-year-old suspect, who lived nearby and whose name has not yet been released by authorities, was to be brought before a judge on Thursday, prosecutors said in a statement.

“The man is suspected at this stage of the investigation of involvement in unlawful detention and injuring the health of others,” the statement said.

The mayor of Ruinerwold, Roger de Groot, said the suspect was not the father of the family.

“The man is still in custody and is being questioned,” said Drenthe police spokeswoman Grietje Hartstra. “A lot is still unclear and we are investigating exactly what happened there.”

The family was discovered after one relative, a 25-year-old man and the eldest of the siblings according to local media, sought help at a nearby cafe.

In a statement, police said they found the family in a “small space in the house which could be locked” and that it was unclear whether they were being held against their will.

Investigators have not commented on published reports that the family may have held apocalyptic “end of days” beliefs.

“There is a lot of speculation in the media about what happened, but as police we deal with facts. We still have a lot of unanswered questions,” Hartstra said.

The mother of the children was believed to have died before the family moved to the Dutch farm in 2010, De Groot told reporters. None of the family members was registered as a resident with the municipality, the police statement said.

REMOTE SPOT

The farm is located on a secluded plot of land on the outskirts of the village. Residents were surprised that anyone could have been hidden away for so long in their tiny community without being noticed.

“It’s possible here … (it) is such a remote spot, in the middle of fields,” said neighbor Roelie van Dijk. “You see it can happen anywhere. Not only in a big city but also in the countryside. And perhaps even more in the countryside, where you can hide completely.”

Van Dijk said she and her husband had seen a man driving in and out of the property for years and doing construction work. He always kept the gates closed and never socialized, she said.

Her husband Sjon said he once asked to see how the renovations were coming along, but the man yelled “no” and sped off.

“We tried to make contact, my husband just last week, with the man in the car…(But) he drove on. He went through the gates and locked them again.”

The siblings had apparently lived in makeshift rooms inside the farm and survived partly on vegetables and animals from a secluded garden on the property, local TV RTV Drenthe reported.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Stephanie van den Berg Writing by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Dutch police discover family locked away for years on farm

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Six young adults and their father were receiving medical treatment on Tuesday after Dutch police acting on a tip-off discovered them locked away in a secret room at an isolated farm, officials in the Netherlands said on Tuesday.

The six, aged 18 to 25, and their ailing father were found near Ruinerwold, a village in the northern province of Drenthe, local Mayor Roger de Groot said. They had apparently had no contact with the outside world for nine years.

De Groot said a 58-year-old man, not the father of the children, was arrested at the farm. His role was unclear.

“As far as I know their mother died before they arrived there,” he said. “Police found makeshift living quarters where the family was living in hiding.”

The family, who according to local news reports had been waiting for the end of time, was discovered after one of the siblings escaped and sought help at a nearby cafe.

An employee at the cafe told RTV Drenthe one of the family members, a 25-year-old man, had come in looking scruffy and bewildered with long hair and said he had not been outside for nine years.

“You could see he had no idea where he was or what he was doing,” the cafe owner, Chris Westerbeek, told the broadcaster. “He said he had run away and that he urgently needed help.”

The siblings and their father, who was reportedly bedridden after a stroke, were receiving treatment at an undisclosed location, the mayor said.

“I understand there are a lot of questions,” de Groot said. We have many too. The police are investigating all possible scenarios.”

The siblings had apparently lived in a hidden cellar and survived on vegetables and animals tended in a secluded garden, local TV RTV Drenthe reported.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Writing by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Climate records tumble as Europe swelters in heatwave

A temperature indicator outside of a pharmacy indicates 42 degres Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) in Brussels, Belgium, July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) – Soaring temperatures broke records in France, Britain and the Netherlands on Thursday as a heatwave gripped Europe for the second time in a month, in what scientists said were becoming more frequent events as the planet heats up.

Tourists shield themselves from the sun with umbrellas as temperatures reach new record highs in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Tourists shield themselves from the sun with umbrellas as temperatures reach new record highs in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

As a cauldron of hot air from the Sahara desert moved across the continent, drawn northwards by high pressure, Paris recorded its highest temperature since records began and Britain reported its hottest weather for the month of July.

The unusual conditions brought a reduction in French and German nuclear power output, disrupted rail travel in parts of Britain and sent some Europeans, not habitual users of air conditioning in their homes, out to the shops in search of fans.

Health authorities issued warnings to the elderly, especially vulnerable to spikes in temperature.

“It’s very hot at the moment. I saw 42 degrees (Celsius) is forecast for today,” said 19-year-old French tourist Ombeline Massot in the capital’s Montmartre district, where visitors drank chilled bottles of water and fanned themselves.

Shortly after she spoke, the mercury touched 40.6 Celsius (105.08° Fahrenheit) in the French capital, above the previous Paris record of 40.4 C (104.72) recorded in July 1947.

In Britain, the temperature reached its highest for July, hitting 36.9 C (98.42 F), said the Met Office, the national weather service. The temperature, recorded at Heathrow, London, beat the previous July record of 36.7 C (98.06°F).

In the southern Netherlands, the temperature peaked at 40.4 Celsius (104.7 Fahrenheit), topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for the first time on record, Dutch meteorology institute KNMI said. That broke the national record of 39.3 Celsius set the previous day. Before this week, the national heat record of 38.6 degrees had stood for 75 years.

The heat is expected to persist until Friday.

A boy plays with water in a fountain on a hot summer day in Brussels, Belgium, July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

A boy plays with water in a fountain on a hot summer day in Brussels, Belgium, July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

GLOBAL WARMING

Climate specialists said such heatwaves are becoming more frequent as a result of global warming from greenhouse gas emissions.

Britons were facing travel disruption, with trains being forced to slow down to prevent tracks buckling in the heat. Several train operators asked commuters not to travel or set off very early.

A Met Office study found that a heatwave like one that broke records last year was 30 times more likely to occur than in 1750 because of the high amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Since the pre-industrial period, the Earth’s surface temperature has risen by 1 degree Celsius.

“There is a 40-50% chance that this will be the warmest July on record. This heatwave is exactly in line with climate change predictions,” said Dr. Karsten Haustein at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.

Peter Inness, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Reading, said: “The fact that so many recent years have had very high summer temperatures both globally and across Europe is very much in line with what we expect from man-made global warming.”

The heatwave in Britain is expected to come to an abrupt end on Friday with thunderstorms forecast for several parts of the country, the Met Office said.

Very high temperatures across Europe coupled with prolonged dry weather has reduced French nuclear power generation by around 5.2 gigawatts (GW) or 8%, French power grid operator RTE’s data showed.

Electricity output was curtailed at six reactors by 0840 GMT on Thursday, while two other reactors were offline, data showed. High water temperatures and sluggish flows limit the ability to use river water to cool reactors.

In Germany, PreussenElektra, the nuclear unit of utility E.ON, said it would take its Grohnde reactor offline on Friday due to high temperatures in the Weser river.

(Reporting by Nina Chestney in London, Richard Lough in Paris, Alexandra Regida in Brussels and Bart Meijer in Amsterdam; Editing by William Maclean and Peter Graff)

Russians, Ukrainian to face murder charges over downing of Flight MH17

FILE PHOTO: A Malaysian air crash investigator inspects the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 22, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/File Photo

By Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch

NIEUWEGEIN, Netherlands (Reuters) – Three Russians and a Ukrainian will face murder charges for the deaths of 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 that was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014, the international investigative team said on Wednesday.

The suspects are likely to be tried in absentia in proceedings set to start in the Netherlands next March. Dutch authorities said Russia has not cooperated with the inquiry and is not expected to surrender defendants.

“These suspects are seen to have played an important role in the death of 298 innocent civilians,” Dutch Chief Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said.

“Although they did not push the button themselves, we suspect them of close cooperation to get the (missile launcher) where it was, with the aim to shoot down an airplane.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry denied that it had not cooperated while saying on Wednesday the investigation was intended to damage Moscow’s reputation.

“Once again, absolutely groundless accusations are being made against the Russian side, aimed at discrediting the Russian Federation in the eyes of the international community,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Dutch Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus said in a letter to parliament the Netherlands had taken unspecified “diplomatic steps” against Moscow for failing to fully comply with legal requests or providing incorrect information.

MH17 was shot out of the sky on July 17, 2014 over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Everyone aboard died.

The Dutch-led international team tasked with assigning criminal responsibility for the plane’s destruction named the four suspects as Russians Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin, as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. It said international arrest warrants for the four had been issued.

Girkin, 48, a vocal and battle-hardened Russian nationalist, is believed to live in Moscow where he makes regular public appearances. He is a commentator on Russian and foreign affairs via his own website and YouTube channel.

“The rebels did not shoot down the Boeing,” Girkin told Reuters on Wednesday without elaborating.

Ukrainian authorities said they would try to detain Kharchenko, the suspect believed to be on their territory.

“The Russian Federation must now cooperate fully with the prosecution and provide any assistance it requests,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said. There were 10 Britons on the flight.

RUSSIAN MISSILE

Most of the passengers were Dutch. The joint investigation team formed by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine found that the plane was downed by a Russian missile.

Last year Russian President Vladimir Putin called MH17’s downing a “terrible tragedy” but said Moscow was not to blame and there are other explanations for what happened.

Asked if she expected the suspects to attend the trial, Silene Fredriksz, whose son Bryce was on the plane, said: “No, I don’t think so. But I don’t care. I just want the truth, and this is the truth.”

The investigation team said Girkin was a former Russian FSB security service colonel who served as minister of defense of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in eastern Ukraine in the summer of 2014.

It said Dubinsky was head of the military intelligence agency of DNR, while Pulatov headed a second department of the agency. Kharchenko was head of a reconnaissance battalion for the second department, it said.

Prosecutors have said the missile system that brought down the airliner came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.

(Additional reporting by Bart Meijer in Amsterdam; Christian Lowe, Anastasia Teterevleva and Maria Vasilyeva in Moscow; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Investigators to identify MH17 suspects: Dutch broadcasters

FILE PHOTO: A Malaysian air crash investigator inspects the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 22, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Investigators will next week announce criminal proceedings against suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 five years ago, allegedly by pro-Russian separatists, two leading Dutch broadcasters reported on Friday.

MH17 was shot out of the sky over territory held by separatists in eastern Ukraine as it flew from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board.

About two-thirds of the passengers were Dutch.

Dutch prosecutors said on Friday a multi-national investigation team would present its latest findings to media and families on June 19. A spokesman for the national Dutch prosecution service declined to specify what would be announced.

Citing anonymous sources, broadcaster RTL reported that the public prosecution service had decided to launch a case against several MH17 suspects.

National public broadcaster NOS also reported that criminal proceedings will be announced against individual suspects.

No suspects were named in the reports.

The Joint Investigation Team, which seeks to try the suspects under Dutch law, has said the missile system came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.

Investigators had said their next step would be to identify individual culprits and to attempt to put them on trial.

Dutch officials have said Russia has refused to cooperate.

Russia is not expected to surrender any potential suspects who may be on its territory and authorities have said individuals could be tried in absentia.

The Joint Investigation Team was formed in 2014 by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine to investigate collaboratively.

The Netherlands and Australia, which lost 38 people, hold Russia legally responsible. Moscow denies all involvement and maintains that it does not support, financially or with equipment, pro-Russian rebels fighting Ukrainian government troops.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Major European nations recognize Guaido as Venezuela president

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, January 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

By Jose Elas Rodriguez and Sudip Kar-Gupta

MADRID/PARIS (Reuters) – Ten European nations joined the United States in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president on Monday, heightening a global showdown over Nicolas Maduro’s socialist rule.

France, Spain, Germany, Britain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands’ coordinated move came after the expiry of an eight-day ultimatum for Maduro to call a new election.

The Venezuelan leader, accused of running the OPEC nation of 30 million people like a dictatorship and wrecking its economy, has defied them and said European rulers are sycophantically following President Donald Trump.

Guaido, who leads the National Assembly, declared himself caretaker leader last month in a move that has divided international powers and brought Venezuelans onto the streets.

Trump immediately recognized him but European Union countries were more hesitant.

Russia and China, which have poured billions of dollars of investment and loans into Venezuela, are supporting Maduro in an extension of their geopolitical tussle with the United States.

“From today, we will spare no effort in helping all Venezuelans achieve freedom, prosperity and harmony,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, urging fair elections and humanitarian aid.

In response, Maduro accused “cowardly” Spain of taking a “malign” decision. “If one day there is a coup, if one day there is a gringo military intervention, your hands will be stained with blood, Mr. Pedro Sanchez,” he said in a speech.

Maduro, 56, a former union leader, bus driver and foreign minister, replaced former president Hugo Chavez in 2013 after his death from cancer. But he has presided over an economic collapse and exodus of 3 million Venezuelans.

He accuses Washington of waging an “economic war” on Venezuela and harboring coup pretensions aimed at gaining control over its oil. Venezuela’s oil reserves are the largest in the world but production has plunged under Maduro.

“ILLEGITIMATE, KLEPTOCRATIC REGIME”

Critics say incompetent policies and corruption have impoverished the once-wealthy nation while dissent has been brutally crushed.

A draft EU statement said the 28-member bloc would “acknowledge” Guaido as interim president, but formal recognition was a prerogative of individual states.

“The oppression of the illegitimate, kleptocratic Maduro regime must end,” said British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt as he announced London was recognizing Guaido.

Russia accused Europe of meddling.

“Imposing some kind of decisions or trying to legitimize an attempt to usurp power is both direct and indirect interference,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Caracas pays both Russian and Chinese loans with oil.

Maduro won re-election last year, but critics say the vote was a sham. Two opposition rivals with a good chance of winning were barred, while food handouts and other subsidies to hungry Venezuelans were linked with political support.

Italy’s 5-Star Movement, which makes up half of the ruling coalition, dissents from the European stance, saying it would not recognize self-appointed leaders.

But its governing partner, the League, disagrees.

Guaido told Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera that he would do everything possible to secure Italian support.

In addition to European pressure, a bloc of Latin American nations plus Canada were to meet on Monday seeking to maintain pressure on Maduro.

“All these shameless people are clinging to power,” said Luis, a 45-year-old Venezuelan outside the consulate in Madrid. “Let them hold elections so they see they won’t get even 10 percent of the votes.”

Italy’s SkyTG24 channel quoted Maduro as appealing to the Pope to help dialogue ahead of what he hoped would be a “peace conference” led by Mexico and others on Feb. 7. Conscious of the collapse of a past Vatican mediation bid, foes say Maduro uses dialogue to play for time and regroup when on the back foot.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Marine Pennetier in Paris; Guy Faulconbridge and Mike Holden in London; Jose Elias Rodriguez in Madrid; Andrew Osborn and Thomas Balmforth in Moscow; Andrei Khalip in Lisbon; Steve Scherer in Rome; Alissa de Carbonnel and Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels; Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Sarah Marsh in Caracas; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Marathon church session ends as Dutch let Armenian family stay

FILE PHOTO: A protestant church holds round-the-clock sermons in an attempt to prevent the extradition of an Armenian family of political refugees, in The Hague, the Netherlands December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eva Plevier/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A round-the-clock prayer service to stop an Armenian family being deported from the Netherlands was ended after 96 days on Wednesday after the government agreed to make an exception to immigration rules.

Using a law that bars police from entering a place of worship while a service is in progress, hundreds of supporters of the Tamrazyan family have held rites non-stop at the Bethel church in The Hague since Oct. 26 to block their deportation.

Late on Tuesday, the cabinet decided to allow the Tamrazyans and other families rejected for permanent residence after living for years in the Netherlands to stay in the country after all.

The families, which together have around 700 children, did not qualify for an exemption granted to minors living in the Netherlands for more than five years.

To avoid other families with no other prospect of qualifying for permanent residence taking root in the Netherlands, the government will also try to speed up asylum procedures.

“We are incredibly grateful that hundreds of refugee families will have a safe future in the Netherlands,” a spokesman for Bethel Church, Theo Hettema, said on Wednesday.

But he said the church was worried about the consequences for future immigration policy.

The fight over the “children’s pardon” put pressure on Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right government, which has only a one-seat majority in parliament’s Lower House, and looks set to lose its Senate majority in a March 20 election.

Rutte’s Liberal party is trying to present a tough stance on immigration, to avoid losing ground to opposition parties such as the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders.

Although Tuesday’s decision was good news for the Tamrazyans, it came days too late for another family, the Grigoryans. That family of five, with children aged three to eight, was deported to Armenia early last week, just as the cabinet began deliberating on the issue.

“This is unfair and very painful,” their lawyer told Dutch news agency ANP on Wednesday.

“If their deportation had been postponed a few days, the family would have been allowed to stay.”

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Dutch church holding non-stop service to block deportations hopes for Christmas miracle

A protestant church holds round-the-clock sermons in an attempt to prevent the extradition of an Armenian family of political refugees, in The Hague, the Netherlands December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Worshippers at a church in the Netherlands that have been holding round-the-clock prayer services for more than six weeks to prevent an Armenian family from being deported are hoping for a Christmas miracle.

Under Dutch law, police are barred from entering a place of worship while a ceremony is in progress. So hundreds of supporters from the Netherlands and abroad have held non-stop services at the Bethel church in The Hague to block the deportation of the Tamrazyan family.

They are “from all over the world, and that means a lot to our family. …It gives us the strength to keep going,” said daughter Hayarpi, 21. “I really don’t know what the outcome will be, but we hope we can stay here because this is our home.”

The congregation hopes to convince Dutch authorities to make an exception to immigration rules on humanitarian grounds.

“We will continue for as long as we believe it is necessary and possible,” Bethel Minister Derk Stegeman said. “We hope at Christmas our minister will make a great gesture” and grant clemency to the family, he said.

The family came to the Netherlands in 2010 and say they cannot safely return home because they are considered dissidents by the Armenian authorities, although the nationalist Republican Party government that dominated Armenia since independence from the Soviet Union was toppled this year after peaceful protests.

The Netherlands took in hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the 1960s and 1970s but now has one of the EU’s toughest immigration policies. The conservative government under Prime Minister Mark Rutte says “economic” immigrants cannot stay, though refugees fleeing violence have a right to asylum.

The Tamrazyans lived legally in the Netherlands for nine years while their asylum application made its way through the courts. But a final rejection came this year, and they have been refused an exemption under a program for minors living there for more than five years.

“They’ve been told numerous times they have to leave the Netherlands,” the deputy minister for asylum and migration affairs, Mark Harbers, said on Dutch television last week. “This (vigil) seems pretty hopeless to me.”

Hayarpi Tamrazyan (oldest daughter of the family) is pictured at the protestant Bethel Church in The Hague, the Netherlands December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

Hayarpi Tamrazyan (oldest daughter of the family) is pictured at the protestant Bethel Church in The Hague, the Netherlands December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

Hayarpi and her sister, 19-year-old Warduhi, have been studying at a Dutch university, while their younger brother, 15-year-old Seyran, plays on a local soccer team.

“My brother, sister and I grew up in the Netherlands,” she told journalists. “All our friends are here, and my sister and I are studying here. This is just where we belong.”

(Writing by Toby Sterling, Editing by Anthony Deutsch)