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Stand-off over immigrants in church continues

Members of a Zurich church shared their Christmas services with some 150 illegal immigrants who have been in the building for about a week.

The atmosphere was good on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the pastor, Renate von Ballmoos, told the Swiss news agency. She said the church was full on both occasions, as it had been in previous years.

Nevertheless, the church authorities are keen for the immigrants to leave, while the immigrants are determined to stay until they have "something concrete on the table".

The group occupied the church to draw attention to their difficult situation and to call for a more humanitarian attitude to hardship cases.

At a meeting on Friday, they and their support committee rejected calls to leave the building on Saturday. They have also rejected a proposal for discussions on January 5 with Hans Hollenstein, the member of the Zurich cantonal government with responsibility for security.

They say they have nothing against a visit from Hollenstein, but do not want to negotiate in an office, a spokeswoman for the support committee said.

They will meet the church authorities again on Saturday for further negotiations.