Two Armenian children who spent a decade growing up in the Netherlands are set to be deported to Armenia after they came out of their hiding and reported to the authorities.
Dutch officials on Tuesday said Howick, 13, and his sister Lili, 12, who have been hiding for the past three days to avoid deportation, will be sent to join their mother in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, before September 8.
They had arrived in the Netherlands in 2008.
Last year, the mother, Armina Hambartsjumian, lost a decade-long legal battle for asylum and was sent to Armenia without her children.
Before she was deported, the 37-year-old sent the two children to a secret address but they were found by Dutch officials and sent to a foster family.
Last week, the Council of State, the Netherlands’ highest court, decided that Lili and Howick should be deported to Armenia to live with their mother.
Following the decision, Hambartsjumian wrote to the Dutch government, pleading asylum for her children. She also said they were “hiding” in a “safe place”.
“After three days of hiding, the two Armenian ‘asylum children’ have reported to authorities on Monday,” a Dutch newspaper was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
On Tuesday, Hambartsjumian told media in Armenian that she had decided to work with Dutch authorities to make sure her children reach Armenia safely.
In a saga that has gripped the Netherlands – with even Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Princess Laurentien getting involved – the siblings were caught in a cat-and-mouse game as their lawyers fought their case in court.
Before they went into hiding, the children wrote letters to Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Rutte, begging that they are allowed to stay.
“All our friends live here. We have moved 17 times already, but now we finally live in a nice place,” they wrote, adding that they missed their mother, but she was unable to take care of them.
“The only option for us is her coming to the Netherlands because here, we can live as a normal family.”
Meanwhile, their supporters – including Princess Laurentien – had been campaigning to keep them in the Netherlands.
Howick and Lili also appeared in a TV show with Princess Laurentien, who said it is important to remember that these were “young children who needed stability”.
Defence for Children, a Dutch NGO, also warned that the children could suffer if they are deported.
Rutte said he had empathy with the children, but the country also needed to follow “a fair and strict policy”.
“Those who don’t meet the criteria cannot be allowed to stay,” the Dutch prime minister said.