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Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers report of Luxembourg

Committee on the Elimination  
  of Racial Discrimination

14 February 2014

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today completed its consideration of the combined fourteenth to seventeenth periodic report of Luxembourg on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. 
 
Presenting the report, Jean-Marc Hoscheit, Ambassador and Permanent Representative Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stated that multiculturalism and multilingualism were experienced in Luxembourg on a daily basis.  Demonstrations of racism were marginal and rare, but it was nonetheless a phenomenon to be fought against forcefully.  The Luxembourg Office for Welcome and Integration was a public administration office with four key missions: providing social assistance to those seeking international protection, integrating foreigners, combatting discrimination, and following migration trends. 
 
During the discussion, Committee Experts praised Luxembourg as a truly multinational country welcoming a large number of foreigners.  The Experts asked questions on the situation of the Roma and the Yeniche, the ethnic breakdown of the population and data collection, requirements for acquiring Luxembourgish citizenship, and the treatment of people of African descent.  The Committee noted that the report had been submitted five years after the expected date.
 
In concluding remarks, Alexei Avtonomov, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Luxembourg, said that he was very satisfied with the quality of the dialogue with the State party.  All of the questions had been answered and the official position of the State party on a number of issues was now known.  The rationale of the Committee was to provide practical recommendations, which could be implemented in the years ahead.  Luxembourg was an impressive country for many reasons, not least its openness towards foreigners. 
 
Mr. Hoscheit welcomed the attention and detailed comments provided by the Committee, which had led to a mutual learning experience.  Given the geographical position and specific history of the country, Luxembourg’s nature was that of multicultural co-existence.  Luxembourg was nonetheless continuously engaged on managing and bettering the situation in its dynamic society.  The recommendations and the advice given would be studied very meticulously.
 
The delegation of Luxembourg included representatives of the Office for Welcome and Integration, the Ministry of Justice and the Permanent Mission of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva.   
 
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 3 p.m. today, when it will consider the combined seventh to ninth periodic report of Switzerland. 
 
 
Report
 
The combined fourteenth to seventeenth periodic report of Luxembourg can be read here (CERD/C/LUX/14-17).
 
Presentation of the Report
 
JEAN-MARC HOSCHEIT, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that since the previous review at the Committee in March 2005, the State party had implemented several pertinent changes. 

Before it had become a country of immigration, Luxembourg used to be a country of emigration, with up to one-third of the population leaving Luxembourg, mostly to the United States.  At the end of the nineteenth century, Luxembourg had become a highly industrialized country. 

A landlocked country of 537,000 inhabitants, Luxembourg had opened itself to Europe and the world.  More than 44 per cent of Luxembourg’s inhabitants were foreigners, that was, persons without Luxembourgish citizenship.  There were more than 378,000 jobs in Luxembourg at the moment, 170,000 of which were held by cross-border workers who came to Luxembourg on a daily basis.  Nationals of some 170 countries lived in Luxembourg.

Multiculturalism and multilingualism were experienced in Luxembourg on a daily basis.  Demonstrations of racism were marginal and rare, but it was nonetheless a phenomenon to be fought against forcefully.  Luxembourgish citizens and foreigners had a strong desire to live together.

With the law of December 2008 on the integration of foreigners, the Luxembourg Office of Reception and Integration had been created.  It was a public administration office with four key missions: providing social assistance to those seeking international protection, integrating foreigners, combatting discrimination, and following migration trends.  The Office was notably in charge of the implementation of the National Plan of Action for Integration and the Fight against Discrimination 2010-2014.  Integration was a mission shared by the State, communes and civil society, and since 2009, civil society had been actively consulted on it.

The Office was managing so-called contracts of welcome and integration, offered to all non-citizens residing in Luxembourg.  Three language classes were offered, in French, German and/or Luxembourgish, and orientation days and civic integration trainings were organized.  Approximately 1,000 such contracts were signed every year, 61 per cent of which were with the citizens of the European Union.  The number of necessary years of residing in the country as a precondition for obtaining the nationality had been reduced.

The Office was currently preparing a five-year report, which would be submitted to the Parliament in the second half of 2014. 

Any person who wished to acquire Luxembourgish nationality no longer had to renounce their original nationality, unless so required by their country of origin.  Naturalization procedures had been simplified, and any child born in Luxembourg could obtain the nationality if one of the parents had been born in Luxembourg.  Some 25,000 persons had benefited from the easing of naturalization and residence legislation.

Three institutions were particularly important when it came to the defense of fundamental human rights: the Centre for Equal Treatment, the Ombudsman and the Consultative Commission on Human Rights.  The Centre could provide aid to any persons deemed victims of discrimination and inform them of their individual rights.  Five members of the Centre were appointed by the Head of State on the proposal of the Parliament.  Since 2006, the Centre had received 96 cases, half of which had been resolved with the assistance of the Centre, and others had been dismissed or forwarded to courts.  The Ombudsman’s Office was only competent for cases of discrimination between the administration and the general public; no cases had been reported since its opening in 2004.

A draft law on the ratification of the Convention on Cyber-crime, known as the “Budapest Convention”, was being currently discussed by the Parliament.  Such legislation would be significant given the increasing nature of racist and xenophobic abuse on the internet.  Luxembourg was active in the combat against dangers connected to the usage of new media, notably among the youth.

Regarding access to the labour market, all residents and registered foreigners with a working permit enjoyed the same access to the labour market.  Efforts had been made to make the process of job search easier for foreign workers.  The Labour Code had special provisions of leave for workers who wanted to learn the Luxembourgish language, which was seen as a tool for social cohesion. 
 
While incidents of racism and intolerance were fortunately rare in Luxembourg, the State party was aware that the combat against those scourges was a long-term, comprehensive effort, especially at the times of economic crisis.  In that regard, Luxembourg was working closely with a number of international partners, including the United Nations, Council of Europe,  European Union and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Questions by Experts
 
ALEXEI AVTONOMOV, Country Rapporteur for Luxembourg, noted that the report had been submitted five years after the expected date.  Luxembourg was a truly multicultural and multinational country.
 
Calling on criminalization for the denial of the Holocaust was welcome but not sufficient; there was a need for a general law which would prohibit racial discrimination and hatred.

It was observed that the Law on Nationality, which recognized and encouraged double nationality, had removed many barriers and made the overall process smoother. 
 
Concerning the replies of the State party to the Committee’s previous recommendations, Mr. Avtonomov stated that the Government planned to introduce a bill on the reduction of statelessness.  The Rapporteur thought that it would be necessary to provide further comments and details on how the Law on Nationality related to the Convention.
 
Could the delegation provide more information on how the State party dealt with the International Labour Organization’s Convention on Domestic Workers?  Was Luxembourg planning to adopt and ratify that document?
 
Mr. Avtonomov welcomed the existence of contracts promoting integration, and asked for the exact legal status of such contracts.  Could those contracts be used for resolving any disputes between the State party and individuals? What if a foreigner had taken all the necessary classes, but failed to achieve minimal results?
 
Regarding the Centre for Equal Treatment, which was a body receiving complaints, could more information be provided on the number and nature of complaints received?
 
Was there more specific statistical data on the ethnic breakdown of the population of Luxembourg and foreign residents in the country?  Were there Roma and Jews living in Luxembourg?  Was there any data on the Yeniche people in Luxembourg?
 
What were the legal provisions for prohibiting or punishing extremist organizations promoting racial or ethnic hatred?
 
Could more information be provided about foreign students in Luxembourg?
 
Mr. Avtonomov commended the fact that Luxembourg had ratified the amendment to article 8 of the Convention. 
 
Another Expert raised the fact that the report of Luxembourg had been submitted with a significant delay.
 
The school curriculum promoted multiculturalism and mother-tongue classes for children of immigrants, which was welcomed by the Expert. 
 
 
The Expert noted that the majority of foreigners in Luxembourg were from the countries of the European Union.
 
How was the Office of Reception and Integration faring, did it have enough human and financial resources?
 
How exactly was the banning and disbanding of racist organizations provided for, an Expert inquired.
 
The Expert asked how many people in Luxembourg did not have housing, and if there was any resentment among the local population if foreigners were provided with subsidized housing.
 
What was the current position of the State party when it came to the ratification of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants and Members of Their Families?
 
Had there been instances of hate speech in Luxembourg, or reported cases of racial profiling? 
 
Another Expert asked whether the Convention could be directly invoked and applied in Luxembourgish courts.
 
The Expert noted that the definition of integration, as provided in the legislation of the State party, was missing the part on maintaining cultural lives of communities, but luckily that was not missing in reality.  
 
Most European countries in their criminal codes recognized aggravating factors based on racial motives, and the State party should follow suit and add the same provision.
 
Luxembourg had provisions for prohibiting organizations which were endangering public order, which was a very vague and general term and could hypothetically provide grounds for abuse.
 
The establishment of integration contracts was greeted by another Expert.  Those should help integrate the large foreign population in the country and make it easier for foreigners to acquire Luxembourgish nationality. 
 
To what extent were there different procedures in place for asylum seekers from different countries?
 
How was the regime of subsidiary protection different from the regime of protection granted to refugees under the Geneva Convention, an Expert inquired.
 
Could more information be provided about incomes of cross-border workers, especially in comparison with those of Luxembourgish nationals?
 
The Expert observed that the State party’s legislation provided for sanctions for businesses hiring illegal workers .  Could some light be shed and more details provided on that subject?
 
More data was requested on sentences and convictions for racial discrimination in recent years.
 
The State party was invited to take an active part in the initiative by the United Nations General Assembly to mark the Decade of People of African Descent.
 
An Expert expressed concern over the terms and conditions non-European Union nationals who resided in Luxembourg, who frequently might not have been fully aware of integration procedures.
 
The issue of Roma who were new migrants, coming mostly from Serbia or Croatia, was raised by the Expert, who asked about provisions for such people.
 
The State party was encouraged to actively engage with non-governmental organizations in the follow-up to the current report as well as the preparation of the following report.
 
 
An Expert asked for more details on the application of the Convention on Cyber-Crime.
 
The Expert repeated the Committee’s request for having disaggregated data on a number of socio-economic indicators.
 
An Expert commended the fact that the State party in its report recognized and welcomed that foreign workers were contributing to the wellbeing and prosperity of the country.  Being probably the richest country in Europe, was Luxembourg using any kind of filter when accepting migrants?  Was preference being given to humanitarian over economic migrants?
 
Which were the countries where African immigrants in Luxembourg came from, the Expert asked. 
 
On asylum seekers, who was responsible for dealing with individual complaints?
 
Could more information be provided about the conditions of immigrant women?
 
A question was asked about whether foreigners and Luxembourgish citizens were on equal footing when it came to the established minimum wage.
 
Another Expert wondered if the requirement to know Luxembourgish could be replaced with a requirement to achieve a certain level in French or German, other official languages of the country.
 
The fact that the nationality of arrested persons was often mentioned by the media was a matter of concern, an Expert noted.  How were the Muslims and the Roma presented in the media?
 
What were the conditions of the existing asylum centres in Luxembourg?  Was construction of further capacities envisioned?
 
How was the success in the implementation of integration policies measured?  The Committee would be happy to find out about good practices, identify effective strategies and keep them on record.
 
Could statistics be provided on applications of citizenship received in recent years, from whom, and what the outcome was?
 
It seemed that German and French were not so difficult for immigrants to learn, whereas learning Luxembourgish was somewhat of a hindrance in the integration efforts.
 
The Chairperson acknowledged that Luxembourg had facilitated granting Luxembourgish nationality to foreigners, and asked what the exact requirements were.  
 
Response from the Delegation
 
Mr. Hoscheit said that the history and geography of Luxembourg had helped develop the high level of co-existence.  Many prominent figures in public life were of foreign origin, given numerous successive waves of immigration.  Most recently, a large number of people from the Balkans, followed by Portuguese and Cape Verdean citizens, had arrived to Luxembourg, making it their home.  Currently, Luxembourg was welcoming a number of Syrian refugees.
 
A small number of court cases reflected the reality that there had been very few racist incidents punishable by law.  The State party was aware that the cohabitation of different communities was not spontaneously harmonious, but required serious strategies and efforts by multiple parties.  A large number of people living in Luxembourg and having Luxembourgish citizenship were preserving ties with their home countries and double nationality.  The Government believed that that was the basis of harmonious coexistence.
 
Luxembourg had for a long time been a bi-cultural state, with one side closer to France and the other to Germany.  Luxembourgish was defined as a national language.  The language of the land was a basic and fundamental medium for promoting the integration of different communities into the life of the country.  The Government did not expect the foreigners who wanted the nationality to speak the language fluently; rather, the working knowledge of the language was required.
 
The dialect of the Yeniche group had been preserved.
 
The State party thought not in ethnic terms, but in terms of nationality, accepting people as they were, with their culture, tradition and language. Statistics were kept on the nationalities of immigrants, who were dealt with in a pragmatic manner.  There was no ethnic profiling as such in Luxembourg.
 
No negation of the Holocaust or neo-Nazism had been registered.
 
Efforts would be made to submit further reports in the due time-frame, and the delegation pledged that delays would be avoided.
 
Luxembourg was not aiming to give lessons to any other country on how to protect and promote cultural diversity, but had instead developed its own model, which was appropriate for the State party. 
 
Regarding the national human rights institution, the delegation stated that it was an independent body, meeting the Paris Principles.
 
In recent years, a number of persons from Serbia had arrived, claiming refugee status, which could not be given to them, as they were primarily economic migrants.
 
In response to the questions on negationism, the delegation explained that the existing laws had adopted the provisions of the International Criminal Court, with clear references to genocide.  Thus, the State party’s legislation did not relate only to the Holocaust.
 
On why Luxembourg had not made racism an aggravating circumstance, it was said that an aggravating circumstance could relate to any crime committed.  Racism was a crime in itself, and not a circumstance.  The concept of aggravating circumstances meant that people should be more severely punished because of them. 
 
Luxembourg had very harsh penalties in place for racism, and there had been concrete prosecuted cases, such as a four-month prison sentence and a one thousand euro fine for shouting Nazi slogans on the street and having some swastika leaflets.  The State party believed that enough provisions were in place and the system was functioning well.
 
On article 4 of the Convention, which provided for the prohibition of all organizations promoting racial discrimination, the delegation explained that if a purpose statement of any new organization had racist elements, that organization or association would not be authorized and allowed to be established.  If an already established association would suddenly start promoting racist ideas, there were provisions to dissolve such organizations for the sake of public order.  Since 2010, criminal responsibility had been in place for such associations, which involved high fines and their dissolution.
 
Regarding the Law of Nationality, it had to be said that only up to 20 per cent of persons asking for Luxembourgish citizenship actually had to take the language test.  The failure rate of those taking the test was 20 to 30 per cent.  The conditions for taking the test ought to be more flexible, and passively understanding the language should be introduced along with the speaking ability, so that conditions for taking the test should be made easier. 
 
Answering a question on persons from Burkina Faso, the delegation specified that there were 25 of them in Luxembourg.
 
The delegation explained that no difference was made with regard to recourse in relation to a person’s country of origin. Under expedited procedures, recourses were discussed at the administrative tribunals.
 
On the question of the application of the Dublin Rules, the delegation informed that the three main countries to which persons had been transferred in 2013 were Belgium, Italy and Germany.
 
On asylum-seekers, it was explained that a maximum of nine months was a reasonable period of time to deal with any such requests.
 
With regard to the waiting list for the public housing fund, there were over 1,000 persons on this list, one third of whom were Luxembourgers.  Given the percentage of the foreign population in Luxembourg, which stood at 45 per cent, there was no real problem of resentment felt by the Luxembourgish population.
 
The delegation said that integration contracts were consensual, according to which the State party was committed to providing certain services.  It was a “carrot” system without the “stick”, which meant that there were no exact penalties previsioned.  Benefits of fulfilling the requirements of the contract throughout the two-year period included obtaining long-term residency status.  Each contract had an assigned monitor/civil servant in charge.
 
Concerning the minimum wage system, citizens of the European Union legally residing in Luxembourg were benefiting from it on an equal footing with nationals, whereas the cross-border workers could not benefit from it.  France, Belgium and Germany all had their own minimum wage systems.  Nationals from third countries had to reside in the country for five years before being able to benefit from the minimum income provision.
 
Luxembourg currently hosted 2,100 persons seeking international status procedures, suffering from barring/restraining orders and those who had obtained refugee status or the status of temporary protection.  Some of the people held in those centres had received a provisional residence status. 
 
There were private houses rented to communes and individuals, rented hotels and hostels, and shelter homes which belonged to the State and were run in cooperation with Caritas and the Red Cross.  At times, camping sites had to be rented due to the lack of space normally used for the housing purposes.  Minimum standards were observed, and constant efforts were being made to improve the living conditions.
 
The Office for Welcome and Integration was a group of governmental experts to combat discrimination at the institutional level.  There was an annually introduced action programme, which consisted of smaller projects.  Since 2010, that role had been transferred to the Centre for Equal Treatment, which had in turn received more visibility.  The Office would eventually be attached to the Parliament, which would make it possible to bolster its independent role, the same way it had been done for the Ombudsman’s Office. 
 
Luxembourg did not have an actual genuine native Roma population, as was the case in neighbouring States.  There was a population which had come from the Balkans, which had over time become Luxembourgish and did not want to declare themselves as belonging to the Roma ethnic group.  The needs of the Roma population needed to be ascertained, but thus far only one single individual had been willing to come forward and provide some information.  It could be said that there was an overall fear of stigmatization if they were to come out openly as Roma. 
 
Follow-up Questions by the Experts
 
The Country Rapporteur raised the issue of data collection.  He expressed understanding that sometimes it might indeed be difficult to collect it, but nonetheless stressed the importance to have as comprehensive statistics on the ethnic and national composition of the population as possible.  That problem existed in a number of countries.
 
 
Who were the people who had immigrated to Luxembourg? There probably was some discrimination taking place daily, even if unwillingly. There was no open rejection taking place towards, for example, African immigrants, but their unemployment rates were higher than for the population as a whole.  Having relevant data could help address the problem in early stages before it possibly became exacerbated.
 
It was stressed that the Yeniche were a specific group with their own peculiarities, including a language on their own. 
 
The Country Rapporteur emphasized that the State party ought to ratify the International Labour Organization’s convention on domestic workers, who were more vulnerable than the general population. 
 
Another Expert provided a follow-up explanation regarding the Roma, noting that the unwillingness of the Roma to identify themselves as such could be indicative of societal intolerance towards that particular group.  Roma seemed to be often arrested for organized begging, but prosecutions normally did not occur.  Could more information be provided on laws on organized begging?
 
More details were requested on the programme on social responsibility which had been put in place.
 
Response by the Delegation
 
Mr. Hoscheit said that philosophically and politically the State party authorities did not wish to engage in any ethnic profiling, including through data collection.  If people did not want to declare themselves as members of certain groups, there was nothing the Government could do to alter that. 
 
The judiciary was there to monitor any cases of discrimination whatsoever, if any discriminatory acts were indeed to occur.  Protective mechanisms were there and ready to come into play if needed.
 
Regarding the Yeniche, the delegation said that the State party did not perceive them as a group, but rather a language practice existing in one suburb of the city of Luxembourg.  It was a rather marginal social group bordering a criminal group, using a particular type of slang among themselves.
 
The State party was currently considering the International Labour Organization’s Convention on Domestic Workers, which was a praiseworthy treaty.  Those workers were not in any lesser position than any other legal workers simply because the Convention had not yet been ratified. 
 
On organized begging, the delegation said that two types of related crimes had been distinguished – organized and single begging.  Single begging had then been removed from the legislation. Police were taking measures against mostly Roma groups coming from France on a daily basis to beg in the streets, which was done in an effort to combat exploitation of those people by criminal gangs.
 
A social responsibility label had been established in cooperation with the business world with the view of detecting enterprises which wanted to promote corporate social responsibility and establish benchmarks.  It included governance, protection of the environment, anti-discrimination and a number of other categories.  Luxembourg was proud to have been among the pioneers in developing the label.  Diversity charters had been introduced and signed by three major communes, including the capital city.  Efforts would be made in the future to get other public institutions and local bodies on board.
 
Follow-up Questions by the Experts
 
An Expert noted that the Committee was paying too much attention to the issue of the Roma, even in countries where there were no issues as such, as in Luxembourg.  There was no need to divide the population into ethnic strata, especially if they no longer existed, such as the Yeniche. 

Response by the Delegation
 
The delegation said it could not exclude the possibility that there were some problems with the Roma residents of Luxembourg, but the State party was not currently aware of any.  If any such issues were brought to the attention of the authorities, they would be dealt with accordingly.
 
Some schools were facing linguistic challenges as there were children from different backgrounds, but with time such problems would disappear and people would become integrated.  People of various backgrounds were prominent in social and political spheres; integration would not take place overnight, but it was an ongoing process. 
 
In cooperation with European partners, Luxembourg was promoting efforts to ensure the safe usage of the Internet and combat online harassment and hate speech.  People were advised to use the Internet cautiously and to note that there were limitations of what could be posted online.
 
Follow-up Questions by the Experts
 
An Expert said that the Committee placed an emphasis on aggravating circumstances in any violence.  Reference to public order, in the Expert’s opinion, was not sufficient in that regard.
 
Another Expert wondered whether Luxembourg could become an example for Europe in the way it perceived foreigners and on a number of topical questions.  Would Luxembourg consider having in its Parliament people who did not come from the European area?
 
Response by the Delegation
 
The delegation reiterated that the law defined Luxembourgish as a State language, which had a significant history and was further developing over recent years.  A certain level of operational fluency was required, but Luxembourg was at the same time pragmatically adapting to the outside world, including linguistically.  Luxembourg tax payers dedicated significant resources for language learning.
 
All residents, European and non-European, had voting rights for local elections.  There was also a case of a prominent female politician of Ethiopian origin who had been elected to a local council in Luxembourg.
 
The State party was marked by the spirit of openness, and was the country paying more than one per cent of its GDP for the official development assistance, thus surpassing Nordic countries.  Luxembourg had historically provided assistance and welcomed people in need, most recently Syrian refugees, for whom services in the Arab language had been prepared.
 
Going back to the question of associations and groups, the delegation reiterated that prohibiting extremist organizations was only a part of the arsenal at the State party’s disposal.  Heavy sentences were provided for racial discrimination and spreading ethnic or religious hatred in the Criminal Code.  Luxembourg had never had a political party with a xenophobic agenda, which made it quite exceptional in the region. 
 
 
Concluding Remarks
 
ALEXEI AVTONOMOV, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Luxembourg, said that he was very satisfied with the quality of the dialogue with the State party.  All of the questions had been answered and the official position of the State party on a number of issues was now known.  The rationale of the Committee was to provide practical recommendations, which could be implemented in the years ahead.  Luxembourg was an impressive country for many reasons, not least its openness towards foreigners.  The Committee recommended that Luxembourg accede to the Convention on Migrant Workers, but it was up to the State party to decide its course of action.  It was positive that the Government was pursuing close cooperation with civil society.  The Country Rapporteur recommended that concluding recommendations also be published in languages other than Luxembourgish, such as Portuguese and former Serbo-Croat. 
 
JEAN-MARC HOSCHEIT, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations in Geneva, welcomed the attention and detailed comments provided by the Committee.  The delegation was impressed by the high intellectual content of the discussions and the quality of the dialogue.  It had been a mutual learning experience.  Given the geographical position and specific history of the country, Luxembourg’s nature was that of multicultural co-existence.  Luxembourg was nonetheless continuously engaged on managing and bettering the situation in its dynamic society.  The recommendations and the advice given would be studied very meticulously. The Committee could count on the enduring support of Luxembourg.
 
 _________

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