The legal framework in Luxembourg does not provide a specific legal status for unaccompanied minors (hereafter UAM), which is why the large majority of them apply for international protection. This allows them to stay in the country and to benefit from social and legal assistance, as well as from accommodation. Cases of UAMs presumed or identified victims of human trafficking are rare in Luxembourg. Overall, specific legal frameworks exist according to the status of the UAM: The Law on Asylum, the Law on Immigration and the Law on victims of trafficking in human beings. This framework is completed by general provisions of the Youth Protection Law, which applies to all minors independent of their immigration or legal status.
Until the influx of applicants for international protection in 2015 and 2016, the phenomenon of unaccompanied minors has been relatively small in Luxembourg. Particularly 2015 was marked by a high number of UAMs applying for international protection, with 102 introductions of applications compared to 31 applications in 2014. Since, the number of applications has stabilised over the last two years, with 51 applications in 2016 and 50 applications in 2017. In 2015, Afghanistan and Albania were the leading countries of origin of UAMs. In 2016, Afghanistan was still the leading country of origin, followed by Morocco. In 2017, the profiles of the UAMs changed again, with Albania and Morocco as leading countries of origin.
In Luxembourg, UAMs are predominantly boys and a large majority is close to the age of majority, or have already reached the age of majority, when a final decision on their application for international protection is issued. However, the Directorate of Immigration reported that they were confronted with a new phenomenon in 2017, namely the arrival of very young UAMs aged between 12 and 14.
Every UAM, whether s/he files an application for international protection or not, will be assigned an ad-hoc administrator as soon as possible in order to assist him/her in all legal proceedings. In addition to the designation of an ad-hoc administrator, the organisations that accommodate the UAMs applying for international protection usually request the guardianship (either institutional or personal guardianship) of the UAM who has introduced his application. Different from the ad-hoc administrator, the guardian is assisting and supporting the UAM in all daily life affairs, such as social guidance, integration, education, medical care, acquisition of language skills, leisure activities, etc.
In regard to education, the overall aim in Luxembourg is to integrate migrant children, independent of their immigration status, into the general educational system as soon as possible. The latter has experienced a diversification of its offer with a number of specialised measures and services. Together with leisure and extracurricular activities, school is considered to be one of the main contributors to the overall well-being and integration of UAMs into the Luxembourgish society. There are no integration measures that specifically target UAMs.
There are no specific transition measures or procedures for UAMs who are approaching their majority, neither in regard to the accommodation and guardianship arrangements, nor in the general context of integration. The organisations responsible for the accommodation and care of the UAMs provide them with a supervision and support according to their specific individual needs. This is also true for the respective legal framework of the UAM, including eventual extensions of residence permits.
The return of UAMs is considered to be rare in the Luxembourgish context. As mentioned earlier, this is related to the fact that the large majority of UAMs applying for international protection are close to the age of majority or have already reached majority when a final decision on their application is issued. Furthermore, although foreseen by the Immigration Law, Luxembourg does not carry out forced returns of persons considered to be unaccompanied minors. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), responsible for (assisted) voluntary returns, reported that they have approximately one voluntary return of an UAM every two years.
In 2017, following the recommendation of the evaluation of the Schengen acquis in the area of return in Luxembourg, the government adopted the creation of a new commission with the function of assessing the best interest of the child in the context of return of UAMs. This commission entered into force at the beginning of 2018 and is composed of members of the prosecution service, the National Childhood Office (ONE), the Luxembourg Reception and Integration Agency (OLAI), and finally the Directorate of Immigration, which is chairing the commission. In addition, the ad-hoc administrator is invited to attend the commission meeting for the minor s/he represents. Based on the elements of his/her application, an individual opinion assessing the best interest of the child, in the context of his/her return, will be given for each minor.
One of the major reported challenges is the appointment of legal representatives of UAMs (ad-hoc administrator and guardian), as well as the lack of precision of the legal provisions in this context.
In the context of return, the Directorate of Immigration reported that they are faced with challenges in regard to getting in contact with the respective countries of origin as well as in regard to cases of applicants not telling the truth.
One of the main good practices that has been identified by a number of stakeholders are the new care and accommodation arrangements, allowing to house UAMs in specifically dedicated reception facilities with a 24/7 supervision, depending on the availability of these facilities. In the same context, it was reported that it is of great importance to provide the minors with an environment of trust and support, to listen to them and to reassure them in order to be able to understand their current situation. Particularly the approach of supporting them in elaborating a life plan or life project (“projet de vie”) is considered as being very important for the stability and general well-being as well as for the integration of the UAMs. In addition, it is also important to support them in other matters of integration, such as education, acquisition of language skills, extracurricular activities, etc.
In the context of return, Directorate of Immigration reported the newly concluded agreement with IOM in order to conduct family assessments of UAMs in the countries of origin as a good practice. On the one hand, this assessment is one element that will be taken into consideration in the examination of the application of the minor. On the other hand, it helps in assessing the best interest of the child in the event of a return if the application is rejected.