Immigration: The number of refugee applications has more than doubled this year, according to government statistics released on Tuesday.
The foreign ministry’s immigration service reported receiving 1,807 requests for international protection during the first ten months of the year, compared to 786 cases in all of 2010. Last year’s figure was already up notably from the 505 cases filed in 2009.
The vast majority of asylum seekers come from the former Yugoslavia. From January to October, 42 percent of applicants came from Serbia, 21 percent from Macedonia, and seven percent from Kosovo. Two percent each came from Tunisia and Iraq, while one percent each were Algerian and Afghani.
Of the 1,058 cases adjudicated so far this year, 547 asylum applications were refused. The immigration service also said it repatriated more than 313 people during the first ten months of the year, only 19 “forcibly.”
The government figures do not indicate the length of time that immigration proceedings have taken this year. However, earlier this year a group of Iraqi refugees went on a hunger strike in the Place Clarefontaine to protest what they said was a two-year delay in having their cases resolved.
In September, a spokesman for the immigration minister, Nicolas Schmit, noted the marked increase in the total number of refugees coming to the Grand Duchy, telling Delano “there have been some delays” in handling asylum claims.
Schmit then told the Chamber of Deputies that the immigration service would temporarily recruit six additional agents to complement the existing 18 that handle refugee claims.
UPDATE: The new immigration officials are still being recruited and should all be hired within the next month, the minister’s spokesman told Delano on Thursday. The ministry hopes the six will be able to handle the asylum backlog, he said. However the authorities will continue to monitor the caseload as “the situation will evolve.”
Several other European countries, such as Belgium and Sweden, have also seen a rise in refugee applications, while others have seen none, the spokesman explained.
Currently most cases are taking between nine months and a year to be resolved by the immigration agency. Applicants denied asylum then have the right to appeal to an administrative tribunal that is part of Luxembourg’s judicial system.
However, a majority of cases are resolved in three to four months under the European Union’s “accelerated procedure” guidelines. While such fast track applications are “still examined in every detail” they are thought not to meet basic Geneva Convention criteria, so are handled in a more expedited manner, the spokesman says.