Asylum seekers face many difficulties in the application process
Photo: Maison Moderne archives
Asylum seekers face excessive waiting times for their asylum applications, poor accommodation and poor food, an advocacy group has said.
The Lëtzebuerger Flüchtlingsrot (LFR, or Luxembourg refugee council, an umbrella association of asylum and human rights charities and experts) issued a press statement on 13 April in which it agrees with all the shortcomings the former ombudsman, Lydie Err (now replaced by Claudia Monti), raised in her 2016 annual report.
Excessive delays and lack of transparency
Many asylum seekers (mostly Iraqis and Syrians) have complained to the Ombudsman about the length of the asylum procedure--some have waited for several months, or even more than a year. The Ombudsman stated that many requests for information on the status of their application have remained unanswered; the waiting times were not specified and applicants were left in the dark.
The fact that months pass by before a person has their first meeting is deplorable for both the applicant and the Immigration Department, the report noted. If months go by before the applicant has a chance to tell their story and explain the motives for their asylum request, memories might become distorted. Furthermore, the long waiting time is another stress factor for people who have already lived through traumatic events. Not knowing when a decision will be taken adds to the psychological suffering of an applicant.
The LFR agrees with these statements and adds:
“for a long time, we have been trying to draw the minister’s attention to the lack of transparency of the asylum application process which is coupled with a lack of response by the Immigration Department on enquiries by the asylum seekers.”
Lack of privacy and proper integration strategies
The LFR also shared the concerns of the ombudsman about the lack of privacy--some families have to share one room for months in a “foyer” (shelter). Furthermore, social workers only receive a half day training course to deal with these vulnerable people who have often suffered traumatic experiences.
It criticised the fact that kids are often educated at the foyer and are not integrated in the country’s “maisons-relais” (after-school centres) which could further their integration.
The ombudsman also notes that:
“an external control system, which is neutral and impartial, should be put in place to check that minimum standards set by international norms are met in the reception and housing facilities.”
The LFR echoed the ombudsman’s findings that many asylum seekers find it difficult to get appointments with OLAI (office of reception and integration) staff who do most of the social work, and shared the recommendation of increasing staff.
Two new members have recently joined: Asbl Passerell which organises events to facilitate exchanges between residents and asylum seekers, and the project Reech-eng-Hand (give a hand) run by the Catholic church.