At the request of Prime Minister Luc Frieden, responsibilities for immigration and the reception of refugees have been distributed between the coalition partners, minister Max Hahn told RTL on Monday.
The Democratic Party MP maintained his role as family minister, adding the Ministry of Integration to his portfolio in the new government. This new responsibility means he will have to collaborate with the CSV's Minister of Internal Affairs, Léon Gloden. The two have already embarked on visits to several reception structures run by the National Reception Office (ONA) - a moving experience, according to Hahn, particularly when meeting the children living in the accommodation.
Frieden's desire to split reception and foreign policy goes hand in hand with plans to encourage more collaboration between government departments and municipalities when it comes to tackling refugee policy. However, Hahn acknowledged the need to resolve the migration crisis at a European level, saying many countries have been neglecting their responsibilities. Earlier this year, Luxembourg reached the limit of its capacities with record numbers of refugees seeking international protection, putting strain on the existing structures - many of which are not strictly fit for purpose. "We cannot give up the hundred beds at the Don Bosco centre", Hahn explained, although the centre was marked to be shut down back in 2015. "Currently our priority is to accommodate people where we can. So the closing of structures is not an option, no matter how dilapidated they are."
Living conditions at the Don Bosco shelter are extremely poor, leaving many refugees without basic amenities. The ONA is working together with the ministry to seek solutions. Hahn said it is a shame that some people who have been granted international protection have declined, for various reasons, the offer of social housing, meaning that no new applicants can be accommodated due to the lack of available beds.
The housing issues in Luxembourg are also a factor in the risk of poverty, Hahn said, as refugees who are granted international protection status often struggle to find alternative accommodation due to exorbitant costs, making it difficult for them to leave shelters in the first place.
Extending parental leave, addressing inequality
The minister also addressed the extension of parental leave from six to nine months, calling it a "new complementary variant". Hahn explained "nothing will be taken away from anyone", as the extension is optional. However, he does not consider it to be a benefit reserved for families with means, despite the fact that the three additional months are to be unpaid. Parental leave reform in general has been successful, he argues, and the three-month extension is just one of several possibilities available to parents.
"In the fight against inequality, different social measures require regular adjustment and need to be used more efficiently," Hahn continued. One issue is that many citizens are not aware of the benefits available to them. A digital platform is in the works to better inform residents and help streamline processes.
Hahn told RTL he was aware of the challenges ahead in terms of family and refugee integration, but pointed out the ministry was also focused on the disabled and elderly as part of its mission.