Vague child sex accusation upsets Eritrean church

An alert issued by Netherlands asylum authority COA forbidding young asylum-seeking women and girls from visiting a Rotterdam church originated in an unsubstantiated internal memo, the church’s lawyer asserted on Monday. The ban, revealed in January, suggested there were several instances of minors sexual abused at the Eritrean community church.

No evidence of abuse was uncovered by prosecutors, the Trouw newspaper reported on Monday. In an interview with the news outlet, church lawyer Bart-Jan Walraven said the COA must pay compensatory damages to the church if there is no evidence to support the ban.

The COA believes a “large number” of women became pregnant after visiting the Eritrean Orthodox Church, and the agency questions if the sexual activity that allegedly occurred there was consensual, according to an internal memo the newspaper obtained. The women concerned were between the ages of 17 and 22 at the time they became pregnant.

Some Eritrean community members in the Netherlands told the paper that the church supports Eritrea’s dictatorship. The country routinely shames and intimidates women who report sexual abuse, and non-profit group WO=MEN is afraid victims in the Netherlands were pressured by the country’s diplomats.

If he is not presented with evidence from the COA, Walraven plans to take the case to court, he told Trouw.