Case study


In Luxembourg, every year since 2015, about 2000 applications for international protection are lodged. Upon arrival, asylum seekers are accommodated in reception facilities managed by a government agency called ONA (Office national de l’accueil – National Reception Office) which comes under the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. The majority of facilities is managed directly by this government agency, with Red Cross and Caritas also operating more than a third of them.

Since 2021, the reception of refugees is organised around two main ‘phases’, i.e. first reception and temporary reception. Upon arrival, asylum seekers are briefly accommodated in a facility called DPA (dispositif primo-accueil – first reception scheme) while they await the results of their Covid-19 tests.

They are then moved to a large recently opened facility called CPA (centre primo-accueil – first reception centre) near Luxembourg City in which they stay while they lodge their application for international protection, undergo medical tests, and their needs are assessed. Then, they are transferred in so-called ‘temporary’ facilities in which they stay whilst their asylum applications are being processed. Due to a lack of affordable housing in Luxembourg, and difficulties to access the housing market for refugees, some residents end up staying for several months or years in the ‘temporary’ facilities even after they have been granted international protection status.

Our research


    Out of the 55 reception facilities that existed throughout the country in 2019 when we started our field research, we focus on eleven so-called ‘temporary’ reception centres located in eight municipalities. The facilities studied are located in different parts of the country, i.e. in the rural north, in the surrounding of the capital city in the centre, as well as in the post-industrial south. The facilities are heterogeneous in size (from just less than 30 residents for the smallest to 300 residents for the largest) and in terms of types of building used.

    We study:
    – converted buildings (a hotel, a cultural centre, a clinic, a retirement home, a migrant worker shelter) located in Berdorf, Differdange, Sanem and Diekirch
    – assembled containers belonging to Red Cross in Dudelange and Bertrange
    – a so-called ‘container village’ in Diekirch
    – various types of so-called ‘modular structures’ in Bettembourg, Sanem and Tandel

    The facilities are also diverse in terms of management:
    – Four of them are managed directly by ONA
    – Three of them are operated by Red Cross
    – Three of them are operated by Caritas


    Between 2019 and 2021, we conducted qualitative fieldwork involving more than 70 interviews with stakeholders involved in the reception process in Luxembourg at different scales (reception facility, municipality, national level), as well as with asylum seekers and refugees residing in these facilities.

    The stakeholders included:
    – employees working for the central government either directly in the reception facilities or in charge of coordinating the reception system in the country
    – employees of NGOs providing social assistance in some of the reception facilities as well as their supervisors
    – mayors and employees of municipalities and social welfare offices
    – an architect involved in the construction of a reception facility
    – employees of NGOs involved in supporting refugees finding housing


    Our aim is to understand how the reception process is implemented by stakeholders and experienced by asylum seekers and refugees.

    More specifically, we explore:
    – the management of reception facilities on a daily basis. What actors are involved and how. We focus on two dimensions, i.e. the social support provided to residents on the one hand, and the infrastructural dimension on the other hand, that is the planning, construction and maintenance of the facilities.
    – the relations existing between the reception facilities and the cities in or next to which they are set up. We focus on the involvement of municipalities and urban actors in the reception process.
    – the protracted stay of refugees in reception facilities due to the difficulty to access the private housing market, and the measures that are put into place to support them.

Reception facilities


Structure 1



Structure 2



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