Police in the city of Schwerin entered a church with a battering ram on Wednesday to detain two Afghan men and deport them to Spain; however, the police operation went awry when the mother threatened violence against herself and her family.
German churches have blocked thousands of deportations by offering “church asylum” to migrants, which police and the state informally recognize, but which lacks formal legal codification.
According to the police, the 47-year-old mother of the 18-year-old and 22-year-old men threatened to use violence against herself and her children in response to the police actions. The family of six was located inside an apartment building on the premises of the Protestant Petrus parish in Schwerin.
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In response to her threats, police special forces and ambulances arrived on scene and a tense standoff ensued, with the police attempting to negotiate. Police say that when they heard glass shatter inside the building, they decided to enter the premises with a battering ram and chainsaw, according to the German news outlet NDR. Police used these tools because they believed the family had barricaded themselves inside.
Police discovered knives hidden on the mother, the 22-year-old son, and even a 13-year-old daughter. In addition, the 22-year-old son was found with cut marks on his body, which police believe were self-inflicted. The police say that everyone was detained with “simple physical force” and no weapons were used during the entry. The mother was charged with making threats and obstructing police activities.
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According to the Refugee Council, the deportation was suspended. Ulrike Seemann-Katz, who works for the council, claimed the police actions to enforce lawful deportation orders were “brutal.”
She told the NDR that the police had crossed a “red line,” and it was the first time in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern that the police had violated the “church asylum.”
She argued that police were sending a “frightening signal to all those seeking protection,” as well as “church organizations offering refuge.”
Although the family is Muslim, she complained that they did not feel safe at Christmas time.
Churches are increasingly offering asylum to migrants slated for deportation. There were only 500 people under church protection in 2020, now there are 2,000. A total of 6,000 cases have been blocked due to church actions, including Catholic and Protestant denominations.