Sister in court for church asylum: "cases of hardship"

Trial in Würzburg Sister in court for church asylum: "cases of hardship"

Religious sister in court

The accused nun sits in the district court of Würzburg before the trial begins. Photo: Nicolas Armer / dpa

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The Oberzell Franciscan Sisters granted two refugee women from Nigeria church asylum. A nun is now on trial for “aiding and abetting illegal residence”.

She could not have done otherwise: With these words, a nun from the Bavarian monastery in Oberzell described in court how she granted church asylum to two women who were obliged to leave the country.

"I had to take the two women into church asylum to protect them," said sister Juliana Seelmann on Wednesday in front of the Würzburg district court.

In 2019 and 2020, the Oberzell Franciscan Sisters admitted a Nigerian woman to the Oberzell Monastery in Lower Franconia in Zell am Main (Würzburg district) for four months and a good two months, respectively. The public prosecutor's office in Würzburg therefore accuses the monastery’s human rights officer of “aiding and abetting illegal residence”.

The women had fled from the hands of human traffickers who had forced them into prostitution in Italy, among other places, as Sister Juliana told the court. "It is our job to give people a dignified life again and not as a" sex toy "," said the 38-year-old.

In both cases, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees refused to allow an asylum procedure. According to the Dublin procedure, the women were supposed to return to Italy, since that was where they had entered the European Union (EU) for the first time and had registered.

The monastery reported the arrival of the women to the authorities in accordance with regulations. From the point of view of the religious community, the two cases were carefully weighed up. "We only grant church asylum if it is necessary in cases of hardship," said Sister Juliana. It was an “ultima ratio decision”.