Armenian teens in Dutch asylum row come out of hiding: report

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Two Armenian teens who grew up in the Netherlands but now face imminent deportation have come out of hiding and reported to authorities, a newspaper and their lawyer said on Tuesday.

Howick, 13 and his sister Lili, 12, disappeared over the weekend after a final legal bid before the Dutch highest court last week failed to stop their expulsion, the Algemeen Dagblad reported.

"After three days of hiding, the two Armenian 'asylum children' have reported to authorities on Monday," the paper said on Tuesday.

"The children are indeed safe," their lawyer Flip Schueller told AFP, stressing "their mother simply needed them to get rest," as the reason for their disappearance -- the second time the pair had gone into hiding during their battle to stay in the country.

In a saga that has gripped the country -- with even Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Dutch royal Princess Laurentien becoming involved -- the brother and sister have been swept into a cat-and-mouse game as their lawyers fought their case in court.

The family had lived in the Netherlands since 2008, but last year the children's mother, Armina Hambartsjumian, was sent back to Yerevan after her asylum request was finally denied.

Just before leaving the country she briefly hid the children, refusing to tell immigration officials where they were.

The 37-year-old woman was deported without them and has since told Dutch supporters she is unable to look after her children in Armenia.

By the time Howick and Lili eventually emerged, their case was before the courts and Dutch authorities decided to await the outcome before making a decision.

On Friday however, the Hague-based Council of State, the country's highest administrative court, ruled there was no reason why the two teens should not be sent back to Armenia and the pair briefly disappeared again.

They are due to leave on Saturday.

Meanwhile, their supporters have been furiously campaigning to keep them in the Netherlands, where they are now living with a foster family.

Last year, fellow pupils from their school in the central Dutch city of Amersfoort demonstrated at parliament in The Hague, waving placards with the teens' faces and chanting their names.

Howick and Lili have appeared on national television with Princess Laurentien -- who is married to King Willem-Alexander's brother Constantijn -- also now taking up their cause.

"We belong here. My brother belongs here and my mom too," an emotional Lili recently told the NOS late night talk show "Laat op een".

The pair also wrote to the Dutch King and Rutte begging them to allow them to remain.

Dutch premier Rutte said he had empathy with the teens' situation but that the country also "had to be a fair and strict policy".

"Those who don't meet the criteria cannot be allowed to stay," Rutte said.

© 2018 AFP

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