Back Commissioner Hammarberg recommends further steps to protect individual rights in migration policies and juvenile justice

Luxembourg, 12/03/2012 – "The current increase in the number of persons seeking asylum in Luxembourg requires fair and effective procedures and a humane response", said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, at the end of a two-day visit to the country.

In 2011, almost 2 200 persons applied for asylum in Luxembourg, compared with just over 500 in 2009. Persons from the Western Balkans, particularly Roma, account for much of this difference. Following difficulties in ensuring adequate accommodation for the newcomers, the authorities have now improved the material conditions of the reception facilities. "However, further steps could be taken" said the Commissioner, "including to improve the respect of the privacy of families and access to psychological support, especially for vulnerable persons".

Noting the current plans to reduce the monthly cash allowance for asylum seekers, the Commissioner called on the authorities to avoid a regression of living conditions and continue to ensure decent standards. Furthermore, the Commissioner expressed his hope that "the extremely difficult situation that many Roma experience in their countries of origin, notably as a result of pervasive discrimination, will be taken into account when their applications are considered".

The Commissioner visited the newly built detention centre for irregular migrants, which opened in the Summer of 2011. The material conditions in this institution are good. However, in some cases persons have been detained although there were no realistic prospects for their removal. "In such cases, there is no justification for depriving people of their liberty" stated the Commissioner.

Another problem which the Commissioner identified was that irregular migrants who had served a sentence in prison were moved to this detention centre and only then were formal procedures for removal initiated. Such formalities could have been initiated at an earlier stage, thereby avoiding unnecessary periods of detention.

As for juvenile justice, the construction of a dedicated facility for the detention of minors, which had been pending for a long time, has now started; a security unit at Dreiborn socio-educational centre should open at the beginning of 2013. The Commissioner notes that the ongoing reform of the penitentiary administration introduces the principle that no minor is to be put in an adult prison unless they are over 16 and have committed a serious offence. In this connection, the Commissioner recalls that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that the detention of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

The Commissioner also recommends that Luxembourg ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Revised Social Charter and that it accept the procedure allowing organisations to submit collective complaints under the Charter. Finally, the Commissioner considers that a strengthening of the powers of the Centre for Equal Treatment would be desirable.