The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has a constitutional monarchy and a democratic parliamentary form of government with a popularly elected unicameral Chamber of Deputies (parliament). The prime minister is the leader of the dominant party or party coalition in parliament. In October 2018 the country held parliamentary elections that observers considered free and fair.
The Grand Ducal Police maintain internal security and report to the Ministry of Internal Security. The Luxembourg Army is responsible for external security and reports to the Directorate of Defense of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
There were no reports of significant human rights abuses.
The government remained prepared and took steps to identify, investigate, and prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.
Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits hate speech in any medium, including online, and provides for prison sentences of between eight days and two years and fines between 251 and 25,000 euros ($280 and $27,500) for violations. The public prosecutor’s office and the courts responded firmly to hate speech. Victims of hate speech on the internet as well as third-party observers can access a website to report hateful remarks and seek help and advice.
Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction.
Libel/Slander Laws: The law prohibits “libel, slander and defamation” and provides for prison sentences of between eight days and two years and fines between 251 and 25,000 euros ($280 and $27,500) for violations. The government or individual public figures did not use these laws to restrict public discussion or retaliate against journalists or political opponents.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement
The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
f. Protection of Refugees
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) stated that applicants for asylum continued to experience prolonged waiting periods for adjudication of their claims in some individual cases. Representatives of the Immigration Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs noted that the average waiting time was 6.5 months.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country generally denied asylum to asylum seekers who arrived from a safe country of origin or transit, pursuant to the EU’s Dublin III Regulation. The government considered 13 countries to be “safe countries of origin” for purposes of asylum. A “safe country” is one that provides for compliance with the principles of fundamental human rights and does not expose nationals to torture and persecution. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains and updates as needed a list of safe countries. The Directorate of Immigration can examine asylum requests through an accelerated procedure for nationals of safe countries of origin as determined by the law. The non-EU countries considered “safe” at the end of 2017 were Albania, Benin (only for male applicants), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cabo Verde, Croatia, Georgia, Ghana (only for male applicants), Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Senegal, Serbia, and Ukraine.
Employment: Once granted asylum, there are no additional legal restrictions on a refugee’s ability to work other than those applicable to non-EU country nationals. According to the country’s National Refugee Council (a collection of NGOs assisting refugees), the absence of training opportunities during the application process affected a refugee’s chances of direct employment once granted asylum. In addition the council underscored that language barriers and an inability to understand the domestic job market reduce employment opportunities. According to the representatives of the Immigration Directorate, application procedures are the same for all non-EU nationals.
Asylum seekers can apply for a temporary work permit six months after applying for asylum. Job positions are published at the national employment agency but are open to non-EU nationals only if no qualified Luxembourg or other EU citizen registered with the national employment agency applies within three weeks. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must approve requests for temporary work permits. According to the National Refugee Council, application procedures are lengthy and not adapted to the needs of the labor market.
Durable Solutions: Through the EU, the country accepted refugees for resettlement, offered naturalization to refugees residing in the country, and assisted in voluntary return to their homelands.
Temporary Protection: The law provides for temporary protection, triggered for example by a decision of the Council of the EU when necessary to provide immediate and temporary protection to a massive influx of displaced persons from outside the EU who cannot return to their countries of origin. In addition the government provided subsidiary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees, but who could not return to their country of origin due to a risk of serious harm, and provided it to approximately 74 persons during 2018.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively.
Financial Disclosure: By executive order, cabinet members must disclose any company assets, in the form of shares or otherwise, that they own. The order requires that prospective ministers submit the information before they assume office. The declarations are available to the public on the government’s internet website. There are no criminal or administrative sanctions for noncompliance, and no particular agency has a mandate to monitor disclosures.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The government bodies that deal with human rights are the Consultative Commission for Human Rights and the Ombudsman Committee for the Rights of Children. In addition the Center for Equal Treatment monitors issues related to discrimination based on race or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion or beliefs, disability, and age. The three organizations are government funded and composed of government nominees but act independently of the government and of one another. The government provided resources that enabled the continuous and unrestricted operation of the committees. As consultative bodies in the legislative process, the committees commented on the government’s bills and amendments to laws concerning human rights. They were also active in outreach efforts, informing the public about human rights and the rights of children and publishing annual reports on their activities.
The ombudsman mediates solely between citizens and the public sector and cannot receive complaints against the private sector, although many assistance institutions are private or run by not-for-profit organizations that often received government support. The Center for Equal Treatment can receive complaints against the private sector but cannot take cases to court on behalf of victims.
The Interministerial Committee on Human Rights aims to improve interministerial cooperation and coordination on human rights issues and to strengthen the country’s internal and external human rights policies. It is in charge of monitoring the implementation of the country’s human rights obligations in consultation with national human rights institutions and civil society. Every ministry has a seat on the committee, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and chaired by the ambassador-at-large for human rights.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The law provides for the rights of workers, including foreign workers and workers in the informal sector, to form and join independent unions of their choice, to bargain collectively, and to conduct legal strikes. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference. Workers exercised these rights freely, and the government protected these rights. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.
The right to strike excludes government workers who provide essential services. Legal strikes may occur only after a lengthy conciliation procedure between the parties. For a strike to be legal, the government’s national conciliation office must certify that conciliation efforts have ended.
The government effectively enforced the law. Resources, inspections, and remediation efforts were adequate. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations. The government and employers respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining in practice.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Continuously improving its resources and inspections, the government pursued suspected cases and effectively enforced the law. Penalties for violations included imprisonment under criminal law and were sufficient to deter violations.
There were reports that foreign men and women were engaged in forced labor, chiefly in the construction and restaurant sectors. Some children were engaged in forced begging (see section 7.c.).
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and the employment of children younger than 16. Trainees younger than age 16 must attend school in addition to their job training. The law also prohibits the employment of workers younger than 18 in hazardous work environments, on Sundays and official holidays, or for nighttime work. The Ministries of Labor and Education effectively enforced the child labor laws.
Romani children from neighboring countries were sometimes brought into the country during the day and trafficked for the purpose of forced begging (see section 7.b.).
Government resources, inspections, and remediation efforts were adequate. By law persons who employ children younger than 16 may be subject to a fine and prison sentence. The penalties were sufficient to deter violations.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, color, political opinion, sex, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, or refugee or social status. The government effectively enforced these laws and regulations. The labor code prohibits discrimination based on religion, national extraction, or social origin.
Employers occasionally discriminated against persons with disabilities in employment (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities). The law establishes quotas that require businesses employing more than 25 persons to hire workers with disabilities and pay them prevailing wages, but InfoHandicap, an NGO for persons with disabilities, noted that the government had not enforced these laws consistently.
The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including rights under labor law and in the judicial system. The law mandates equal pay for equal work. According to information provided by the Ministry of Equality between Women and Men, during the year employers paid women 5.5 percent less on average than men for comparable work.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
As of January 1, the national minimum wage for a worker above the age of 18 was greater than the estimated poverty income level. Minimum wage provisions apply to all employees, including foreign, migrant, temporary, and contract workers.
The Labor Inspection Court (ITM), the Social Security Ministry, and the Superior Court of Justice are responsible for enforcing laws governing maximum hours of work and mandatory holidays. The government regularly conducted investigations and transferred cases to judicial authorities. The majority of alleged violations occurred in the construction sector. The agencies effectively enforced the law, when notified. The law’s penalties are sufficient to deter violations. In 2018 the ITM carried out 3,667 checks and levied a total of 2.208 million euros ($2.429 million) in fines.
The law mandates a safe working environment. Workers can remove themselves from situations endangering health and safety without jeopardizing their employment. Authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. Penalties are sufficient to deter violations.
The Labor Inspectorate of the Ministry of Labor and the accident insurance agency of the Social Security Ministry are responsible for inspecting workplaces. The ITM reported it needs more personnel because the number of inspectors was not sufficient to identify violations as the country’s construction sector continues to expand. Workers have the right to ask the Labor Inspectorate to make a determination regarding workplace safety. Penalties for violations included fines and imprisonment and were generally sufficient to deter violations. Accidents occurred most frequently in the construction and catering sectors. In 2018 the ITM recorded 442 accidents (versus 384 accidents in 2017), including 10 fatalities.