The present report provides an overview of the main developments and debates in relation to migration and asylum in Luxembourg in 2017.
The number of people applying for international protection remained high in 2017 (2.322 applications) compared to the levels registered pre- ‘migration crisis’ (1.091 in 2014). However, the number of registrations remained relatively stable if compared to the two preceding years (2.447 in 2015 and 2.035 in 2016).
This relative stability in numbers also reflected on the general public and policy debate in the field of migration and asylum. Since 2016, its focus has continuously shifted from an ‘emergency’ discourse axed on the implementation of reception measures and conditions towards discussions on longer-term integration measures and policies.
In this regard, the newly introduced Guided Integration Trail (parcours d’intégration accompagné – PIA) can be considered a flagship project of OLAI, the national agency responsible for the reception and integration of foreigners. This multidisciplinary package of measures aims to empower applicants and beneficiaries of international protection and to support them in developing their life project. The trail, compulsory for all adult applicants for international protection, consists of a linguistic component and a civic component and is split into three phases.
Although increasing housing capacities for the reception of applicants for international protection was high on national authorities’ agenda, housing remained a challenging aspect of the asylum system and triggered debate on a national scale. Alongside access to training, problems related to housing were among the issues most frequently raised by applicants for international protection in 2017. The lack of affordable housing on the private market, an increasing number of family reunifications as well as the increasing number of beneficiaries and persons who have been issued a return decision who remain housed in structures of OLAI were all identified as interplaying barriers for finding available accommodation for applicants for international protection.
The difficulties with the construction of modular housing structures also persisted in 2017. A certain reticence of the population towards the construction of these so-called ‘container villages, planned in response to the increasing influx that started in August 2015, was visible in the appeals introduced into Luxembourg’s First Instance Administrative Courts to annul the land-use plans related to the projects.
Living conditions in the various reception facilities were also one of the subjects of discussion in 2017. This included a debate on the (lack of) kitchen infrastructure in reception facilities and the varying systems for provision of food, the types of food available, as well as the availability of internet.
As an answer to the resurgence of an increased influx of applicants of international protection from the Western Balkans in early 2017, a new ‘ultra-accelerated procedure’ was put in place for applicants of international protection stemming from the Western Balkans. According to the state authorities, the ultra-accelerated procedure was set up to take pressure off the reception facilities, but also as a deterrent to avoid creating false hopes for long-term stay.
In April 2017, a ‘semi-open return structure’ (Structure d’hébergement d’urgence au Kirchberg – SHUK) was put in place, from which people are transferred to states applying the Dublin regulation. Due to home custody (assignation à résidence), the SHUK is considered to be an alternative to detention by national authorities. The newly created structure as well as the related conditions for assignment, were nevertheless criticised by civil society.
The outcry among civil society was equally high during and after the adoption the Law of 8 March 2017, which endorses the extension of the permitted period of detention of adults or families with children from 72 hours to 7 days, in order to improve the organisation of the return and ensures that it is carried out successfully.
A commission in charge of determining the best interests of unaccompanied minors applying for international protection was decided at the end of 2017. The commission is in charge of carrying out individual assessments regarding the best interest of the child with the aim of delivering an authorisation of stay or a return decision. Among the elements taken into consideration when the best interest of the child is evaluated in the context of a potential return decision is information provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The latter made an agreement with the Directorate of Immigration in 2017 to search for the parents of UAMs in the country of origin.
With the focus of debates having slowly shifted towards long-term integration issues, the Council of Government also approved the elaboration of a new multiannual national action plan on integration. The plan will be based on two axes: (1) the reception and follow-up of applicants for international protection and (2) the integration of Luxembourg’s non-Luxembourgish residents.
Luxembourg’s National Employment Agency (ADEM) set up a “cellule BPI” (beneficiaries of international protection cell) in its Employer Service in early 2017. This cell provides employers with information regarding job applications and evaluations of the competences of beneficiaries of international protection.
A new law on the Luxembourgish nationality entered into force on 1 April 2017. Given the particular demographic situation of Luxembourg characterised by a significant increase in the total population and a decrease in the proportion of Luxembourgers in the total population, the reform intends to promote the societal and political integration of non-Luxembourgish citizens and to strengthen cohesion within the national community. The main changes introduced by the law include a decreased length of residence requirement for naturalisation (from 7 to 5 years), the right of birthplace (jus soli) of the first generation, a simplified way of acquiring Luxembourgish nationality by ‘option’, as well as new scenarios to avoid cases of statelessness. The law maintains previous linguistic requirements but makes some adjustments in order to prevent the language condition from becoming an insurmountable obstacle.
Ahead of the local elections held on 8 October 2017, the Ministry of Family, Integration and the Greater Region launched a national information and awareness-raising campaign titled “Je peux voter” (I can vote) in January 2017. This campaign aimed to motivate Luxembourg’s foreign population to register on the electoral roll for the local elections.
The government’s intention to legislate face concealment was arguably one of the most debated topics in the field related to community life and integration in the broader sense, both in parliament as well as in the media and public sphere. Bill n°7179 aims to modify article 563 of the Penal Code and to create the prohibition of face concealment in certain public spaces. The bill defines face concealment as the action of covering part of or all of the face in a way of rendering the identification of the person impossible and provides a wide variety of examples, such as the wearing of a motor cycle helmet, a balaclava or a full-face veil. Opposing views among stakeholders, whether political parties, public institutions, civil society or the media, emerged with regard to the necessity to legislate in the matter and if so, on the basis of which grounds and to what extent.
The phenomenon of migration has also led to a more heterogeneous population in Luxembourg’s schools. To face this situation, the education authorities continued to diversify Luxembourg’s offer in education and training, creating for instance a bigger offer for youngsters and adults who do not master any of Luxembourg’s vehicular languages, offering more alphabetisation courses or basic instruction courses. The Minister for National Education continued to develop and adapt the school offer to the increased heterogeneity by increasing the international and European school offer, introducing of a new mediation service and putting in place a plurilingual education programme.
In the area of legal migration, the most significant changes concerned admission policies of specific categories of third-country nationals. In this respect, bill n°7188 mainly aims to transpose Directive (EU) 2016/801 of the European Parliament and the Council of 11 May 2016 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, training, voluntary service, pupil exchange schemes or educational projects and au pairing. The directive aims to make the European Union a world centre of excellence for studies and training, while favouring contacts between people and favouring their mobility, these two being important elements of the European Union’s external policy. Bill N°7188 intends to facilitate and simplify the procedures for intra-European mobility of TCN researchers and students. Moreover, the proposed changes include incentive mechanisms to retain students and researchers. To this end, it proposes that students and researchers, once they have completed their studies/research, can be issued a residence permit for “private reasons” for a duration of 9 months at most in view of finding employment or creating a business. Finally, bill n°7188 also foresees provisions to regulate the family reunification of a researcher staying in Luxembourg in the context of short- and long-term mobility with his/her nuclear family. The legislator furthermore transposed Directive 2014/36 on seasonal workers and Directive 2014/66 on temporary intragroup transfer into national law, and adapted Luxembourg’s immigration law to the needs to the economy, by introducing, amongst other things, and authorisation of stay for investors.
Organising the admission of stay and the issuance of authorisations of stay was also a key component within the agreement between Luxembourg and Cape Verde on the concerted management of migratory flows and solidary development. Other objectives of the agreement include the promotion of the movement of people, detailing readmission procedures, fighting against irregular migration, strengthening the legal establishment and integration of the concerned nationals, as well as the mobilisation of skills and resources of migrants in favour of solidary development.