Luxembourg has been a country of immigration for more than 50 years. Located in the heart of Europe, it holds a strong attraction for EU citizens and nationals from countries all around the world, who play a central role in the national economy, making an important contribution to the population growth and the labour market.
Over the course of 2015, Luxembourg’s population has continued its steady growth of approximately 13.000 people per year, increasing by 2,36%, from 562.958 on 1st January 2015 to 576.249 on 1st January 2016.
Foreign citizens have continued to play an essential role in Luxembourg’s population growth, both in terms of net migration and births.
The total net migration amounted to +11.159 individuals in 2015, which signifies a surplus of arrivals over departures. Foreign EU citizens accounted for 76,1%; third-country nationals represented 32,9%, while Luxembourgish nationals’ contribution was negative, at -9%.
The number of births in 2015 was the highest on record, equal to that in 2013, with 6.115 births in total. Foreigners contributed a birth surplus of 2.150 to Luxembourg’s natural increase, while a birth deficit of -18 was recorded for Luxembourgish nationals. 2015 also marked a record year regarding naturalisations, with Belgians remaining the citizens that obtain citizenship most frequently, followed by the French and the Portuguese.
On 1st January 2016, 46,7% of Luxembourg’s residents were foreigners. Representing 34,6% of the total foreign population, Portuguese remained the most represented nationality, followed by France (15,5%) and Italy (7,5%), while the most numerous third-country nationals were Montenegrins. Due to the war in Syria and the influx of applicants for international protection that followed, the Syrian population living in Luxembourg showed the highest proportional increase during 2015, growing by 461,5% from January 2015 to January 2016.
A look at Luxembourg’s labour market also reveals the central role that foreigners play in the national economy. In the first quarter of 2016, residents of Luxembourg represented 55% of the country’s salaried workforce. Of these, 27,5% were Luxembourgish nationals, while EU nationals represented 24,2% and third-country nationals 3,3%. Cross-border workers from France, Belgium and Germany represented 45% of all salaried workers in Luxembourg. They mainly work in the manufacturing industries, construction and commerce. A majority of recruitments in the HORECA sector are of foreign residents.
Third-country nationals who do not benefit from free movement must be issued with a residence permit in order to enter Luxembourg. An increase in first issues of residence permits was recorded for most categories compared to the preceding year, which had experienced a decrease in almost all categories. In 2015, residence permits were most frequently issued in the “family member”, “salaried worker” and “European Blue Card” categories.
2015 was marked by a significant increase in the number of applications for international protection, which has more than doubled when compared to 2014 (2.447 applications in 2015). While there was a strong increase at the end of 2015, the trend slowed down in 2016. Nonetheless, the number of applications for international protection remains higher than levels in 2013/2014. Most applications were from Syrians and Iraqis (27,3% and 22% respectively), who accounted for only 9% and 1% respectively in 2014. Moreover, both the rate of status recognition (refugee and subsidiary protection status) and of return decision increased.
In 2015, Luxembourg pledged to relocate 557 individuals to Luxembourg in the framework of the EU Council decision to relocate 160.000 international protection applicants from Greece and Italy. Within this framework, 114 refugees have been relocated from Greece and 20 from Italy up until mid-August 2016.
Furthermore, 46 refugees were resettled from Turkey in 2015, followed by 52 further refugees as a result of Luxembourg’s pledge to resettle 194 refugees from Turkey in the context of the EU-Turkey agreement of March 2016. Additionally, 44 Syrians were welcomed in 2015 following a request for assistance by German authorities.
Faced with the increased inflow of applicants for international protection, an emergency reception plan was developed in 2015. The plan included the establishment of first-instance reception centres and the strengthening of the capacity in human resources of both the Luxembourg Reception and Integration Agency (OLAI) and the Directorate of Immigration, which is under the authority of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The OLAI also strengthened the collaboration with stakeholders at inter-ministerial and local levels.
A strong focus has also been put on integration, where major developments include the setting up of integration projects by the municipalities in the context of the ‘Communal Integration Plan’ project and the creation of Luxembourg’s Centre for Integration and Cohesion (LISKO), a service supporting the beneficiaries of international protection in their process of integration in Luxembourgish society.
Over the course of 2015 and 2016, Luxembourg continued to transpose and implement several EU directives. The law of 18th December 2015 on the reception of applicants for international protection and temporary protection transposes Directive 2013/33/EU (re-cast reception conditions) into national law. The law of 18th December 2015 on international protection and temporary protection transposed Directive 2013/32/EU (re-cast procedure), establishing the procedures for granting and withdrawing international and subsidiary protection and the standardisation of the content of this protection. The bill implementing Directive 2013/55/EU on the recognition of professional qualifications was introduced into parliament in 2015 and the bill implementing Directive 2014/36/EU on seasonal workers and Directive 2014/66/EU on intra-corporate transferees and investors’ residence permits was introduced in 2016.
Regarding the transposition of the Blue Card Directive, a Government Decree was issued on 22nd May 2015 establishing the professions to which the lower salary threshold for hiring highly qualified workers applies.
On the national level, a number of legislative changes address some of the challenges set by Luxembourg’s heterogeneity. The bill no. 6410 on youth, introduced into parliament on 6th February 2015, gives cross-border workers access to the care service voucher system which was previously only available to Luxembourgish residents. Bill no. 6893 on the recognition of qualifications was introduced in parliament in October 2015.
At the referendum of 7th June 2015, the proposal to extend the right to vote of non-Luxembourgish residents was rejected by a large majority, who argued in favour of the acquisition of nationality as the more appropriate way to acquire the right to vote. Consequently, the government took steps towards reforming the law on nationality in order to soften the requirements for acquisition of nationality, and in this way enable the broadening of participation in elections.
Bill no. 6977 on nationality was introduced in parliament on 24th March 2016. It includes the reduction of the required duration of residency from seven to five years and the reintroduction of procedure of option in cases of close links with Luxembourg. The level of fluency in Luxembourgish required has become a central focus of the debate on the bill on nationality, some fearing that linguistic requirements would become an obstacle to foreigners’ acquisition of nationality, others underlining the command of the language as a central factor in integration and thus also in the acquisition of nationality.