Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.
Freedom of Speech: The law prohibits hate speech in any medium, including online forums, and provides for prison sentences of between eight days and two years and fines for violations. 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. The public prosecutor’s office and the courts responded firmly to hate speech.
Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction.
Between March 18 and May 4, the government held virtual press conferences without the physical presence of the press corps in a national effort to limit the spread of coronavirus. Journalists complained they had limited access to information at a critical time when the country needed timely updates and that they could not ask follow-up questions. On May 4, the government reopened the press conferences to physical presence of journalists, with the appropriate health and safety measures added, including government-mandated social distancing.
Libel/Slander Laws: The law prohibits “libel, slander and defamation” and provides for prison sentences of between eight days and two years and fines for violations. The government or individual public figures did not use these laws to restrict public discussion or retaliate against journalists or political opponents.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.
Between March 18 and May 11, the government closed academic and cultural venues in a national effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. After May 11, the government authorized the reopening of academic and cultural venues on the conditions that attendees be seated and must either wear a mask or maintain a 6.5-foot distance between one another. Most organizers moved their events online. Starting November 26, and until December 15, the government closed all cultural venues with the exceptions of museums, art galleries, libraries, and national archives, in a national effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
Between March 18 and September 30, in a national effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, the government imposed restrictions on public gatherings, prohibiting them from March 18 to May 11. Violating the ban was punishable by a fine. The government did not enforce the ban against protests. Following May 11, the government authorized public gatherings provided that participants be seated and wear a mask or maintain a 6.5-foot distance from one another. The requirement to be seated did not apply to protesters.
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. Starting October 30, until at least December 15, the government established an 11 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew in a national effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, with certain exceptions for professional, health, family, transit, and emergency reasons. Violating the curfew was punishable by a fine. The Consultative Commission for Human Rights insisted in its October 28 review of the bill on the “seriousness of this measure, which in particular presents a significant restriction on freedom of movement.”
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
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.
On August 11, the Luxembourg Refugee Council, a collective of prorefugee NGOs and associations, accused the Immigration Directorate of discouraging asylum seekers from submitting their applications for asylum and of failing to provide those who submitted a request with a reception certificate that would allow them to stay in country pending adjudication of their asylum applications. In reply Minister of Immigration and Asylum Jean Asselborn admitted that the directorate was unable to register applications for international protection between June 29 through July 9 due to technical difficulties, resulting in applicants’ having to return later, but he stated that affected applicants were accommodated and supported by the National Reception Office, even without a proper application receipt.
The council further accused the directorate of failing to respect the presumption of minor status by making excessive background checks for the registration of an asylum application. Asselborn clarified that the directorate is under the obligation to protect minors in homes and schools and to prevent adults who might fraudulently pose as a minor in an attempt to benefit from government programs. He noted that in 2019 a total of 64 applicants tried to pass as minors, compared with 40 in 2018.
The government exempted persons seeking international protection or refugee status for other humanitarian reasons from temporary immigration restrictions between March 18 and December 31.
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. 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: According to the country’s National Refugee Council, language barriers and the 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.
Durable Solutions: Through the EU, the country accepted refugees for resettlement, offered naturalization to refugees residing in the country, and assisted refugees in voluntary return to their homelands.
Temporary Protection: 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 40 persons in 2019.