Credit: ASTI

ASTI, a non-profit association supporting immigrant workers in Luxembourg, has reflected on its activities over the past year in its annual report.

Whilst refugees once again dominated the news in 2018, ASTI noted that the arrival of some 23,000 migrants was largely ignored. Among these migrants are many immigrant workers who may find themselves exploited on the labour market. With the issue of residence papers remaining, ASTI has confirmed that it will continue to demand access for these migrants.

The association similarly criticised the rhetoric used in the new Luxembourg Constitution, which states in Article 16.1.1 that "Luxembourgers are equal before the law". Instead, ASTI highlighted that everyone should be equal before the law, not only those possessing the Luxembourgish nationality.

Regarding the political framework, the period from June 2018 to June 2019 was largely characterised by preparations for the legislative and European elections. Again, ASTI criticised the political emphasis on the Luxembourgish language, which it feared might encourage xenophobic attitudes. In response, the association proposed the development of a programme and culture of reception at the national and communal level ("Willkommenskultur") and the evaluation and revision of the law of 2008.

In addition, ASTI was left unsatisfied with the State Budget proposal for 2019. Whilst the association welcomed the planned investments in the management and hosting of applicants of international protection and the budgeting of the National Integration Action Plan, ASTI considered the amount of investment to be insufficient. Moreover, the association argued that the €22,000,000 allocated for security measures in the context of the reception of refugees would have been better spent on empowerment. The association did, however, welcome in its report the widening of legal immigration routes, as well as the intention to create a real return policy accompanied by more information and support.

Regarding its own activities, ASTI held the workshops “Vivre au Luxembourg” and “Travailler au Luxembourg” for applicants and beneficiaries of international protection over the past year. In response to great demand, the association introduced other workshops on labour market readiness for refugees and other migrants.

The association also supervised several children who were applicants or beneficiaries of international protection and during the school year, the "Kannernascht" initiative welcomed 22 relocated children (beneficiaries of international protection) living and going to primary school in the Mühlenbach district in the autumn of 2018-2019.

In addition, ASTI initiated several innovative, structured and interconnected projects that go far beyond its regular asylum work. These included the projects "Ma'an! Together! Zesummen!" and "Connections", which ended on 31 December 2018. The two projects had obtained financial support for three years from the Fondation Grande Duchesse Charlotte, through the Mateneen call for projects.

For its part, the "Ma'an! Together! Zesummen" project offered intensive language courses to 940 people, who may otherwise never have had the opportunity to learn the Latin alphabet and French language in an intensive and structured way. Similarly, the 250 participants in the "Connections" project (classes began in March 2019) would not have discovered the Luxembourgish labour market thanks to information sessions and workshops conducted with the support of companies and institutions active in the labour market. 91 of them also had the opportunity to do internships in companies, which in 25 cases resulted in the signing of an employment contract following the internship. In 2019, ASTI also launched the project "Discover Luxembourg through the language", which followed the project "Ma'an! Together! Zesummen!"

Moreover, the year 2018 saw the organisation of two GRESIL (intercultural agency) information sessions, each attracting nearly 100 participants from some 50 municipalities. These sessions focused on the reception of new residents and the state of play and diagnosis of needs, a valuable working tool for the CCIs and a first step towards a common integration plan. In addition, nearly 10,000 people benefitted from ASTI's direct oral translation service, active since 1997, in the last two years.

Furthermore, after five years of friendly meetings, walks and excursions, the project "Amigos 50+" ended in December 2018.

On the legislative side, the association drafted an opinion on Bill 7403, which will separate refugee reception and integration issues between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Family, pointing out the benefits and flaws of the text.