Reception of Ukrainian refugees
QUESTION POSED BY CLAUDINE KONSBRUCK
Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Luxembourg – like other countries – needs to address an influx of Ukrainian refugees. The war in Ukraine is a human and humanitarian catastrophe. I would like to commend the City for its swift and pragmatic response to the arrival of refugees in Luxembourg from day one. The timeline for providing assistance to refugees is something of a challenge. They arrive at the SHUK (Structure d’hébergement d’urgence Kirchberg – Kirchberg emergency shelter), their applications are then processed, they receive temporary protection, and only then are they sent to the various facilities or host families. I would also like to commend the people of Luxembourg for coming together and stepping up to help during this time. Can the College of Aldermen tell the Municipal Council what steps have so far been taken to receive, house, school and integrate these Ukrainian refugees – especially the women and children? Has the College of Aldermen identified any urgent needs for which the City can provide direct assistance? The CSV group has filed a motion with Councillor Radoux (DP) on this topic.
QUESTION POSED BY CLAUDINE REYLAND
I would like to commend the people of Luxembourg for coming together to help the refugees, and the City for its efforts to help these people fleeing their country due to this horrific war. What steps has the College of Aldermen taken up until now to receive the refugees? How are the refugees being housed? Do the host families receive financial or other aid from the City? Do the refugees living with host families receive assistance with food, such as vouchers to purchase food or staples? Can the refugees use the municipal swimming pools and other City sports facilities for free? Do people who fled the war by car receive a residential parking permit? Are host families – some of which are housing six people – entitled to larger rubbish bins at no extra cost? How is the enrolment of Ukrainian refugee children in the City's public schools and childcare centres being handled? Can refugees receive a free subscription to the vel'OH! bike rental system?
RESPONSE BY MAYOR, LYDIE POLFER
The College of Aldermen has taken pains to ensure that everything is in place to help the refugees as effectively as possible. All the relevant City departments – Direction sociale (Social Affairs Directorate), Service Biens communaux et aménagement foncier (Municipal Property and Land Development Department), Service Enseignement (Education Department), Service Sports (Sports Department), Service Architecte-Maintenance (Architecture and Maintenance Department), Service Hygiène (Sanitation Department), Service Parcs (Parks Department), etc. – have done monumental work over the last four weeks.
Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February. At its meeting on 28 February, the Municipal Council passed a motion condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine and asking the College of Aldermen "to make every effort to be ready to receive and house refugees who are victims of this aggression". For the last four weeks, the first agenda item on each meeting of the College of Aldermen has been "Ukraine crisis". A crisis response unit made up of representatives of all the relevant municipal departments has been set up.
The former Rollingergrund preschool was made available to the Association of Ukrainians in Luxembourg to accommodate refugees. The City has rented Hôtel Graace in Bonnevoie to house a shelter for refugees in partnership with Caritas. The National Reception Office (Office national de l'accueil – ONA) approached the City to set up larger shelters. The City responded by making the former Creos administrative building in Hollerich available. That facility is housing 120 refugees. We have a productive partnership with the relevant government (ONA) and private (Caritas, Red Cross, ASTI, etc.) stakeholders. The building, which has a playground, was made ready in five days. The former CAPEL building in "Itzeger Stee" will be used by the Ministry of Health (Ministère de la Santé) to house refugees who test positive for COVID-19. The City has also asked the Luxembourg government to use the former fire station on Route d'Arlon in the event that additional capacity is needed. The former school in Clausen can be used by the Ministry of Education (Ministère de l'Education nationale) to provide schooling for some of the refugee children. The needs in this area have yet to be clarified. It was agreed with the Ministry of Education that older pupils – those in secondary school or in elementary school in Cycle 2 and above – will be placed in international schools. German-speaking Ukrainians will be enlisted to help the pupils. The Ukrainian government is offering refugee children online classes.
Children in Cycle 1 who are no longer living in the Kirchberg emergency shelter will be integrated into the Luxembourg school system to the extent possible. The elementary schools in certain districts have substantial experience integrating children into the Luxembourg school system given that children from many different countries arrive throughout the year.
As at 28 March 2022, there are 211 Ukrainians registered with the City, including 13 children aged 0 to 4, 29 children aged 5 to 9, 24 children aged 10 to 14, and 14 adolescents aged 15 to 19. Some 50 children from Ukraine will now attend Luxembourg City elementary schools. The City is ready to handle this challenge.
The refugees are housed in different districts: Belair, Bonnevoie, Hollerich, Limpertsberg, Gasperich, Gare, etc.
The City is working hard to offer the children opportunities to participate in recreational activities – for example, by providing them with football goalposts and enrolling them in sports or cultural activities organised by the City or associations.
The few refugees who arrived in Luxembourg with their own cars – mainly people staying with family members – are entitled to receive a residential parking permit that is valid for six months. Municipal workers are not currently issuing penalty charge notices for cars registered in Ukraine so as to give refugees who have just arrived at the SHUK time to complete the necessary procedures.
Refugees will be permitted to use the municipal swimming pools for free. The City would also be willing to offer them the free use of the vel'OH! system if a request were submitted.
As regards the higher volume of waste stemming from the increase in the number of residents, people housing refugees may contact the City to find a way to get a larger rubbish bin.
However, women who are being housed at the SHUK with their children have more pressing concerns right now. Using mobile phones, they are continually trying to get news about their families in Ukraine. Sixty iPads were distributed to Caritas, the Red Cross and ASTI to enable children who do not have computer access to take the online classes organised by the Ukrainian government.
ONA was looking for sites to house a large number of refugees, particularly in case some of the 600 spots at the SHUK become unavailable. Two sites are currently being set up: one in Kirchberg with 500 spots and the other in a former office building in Gasperich with 200 spots.
A meeting with Syvicol has also taken place, looking at the issue of accommodation facilities. Representatives of several municipalities have stressed that they have suitable sites to create such facilities, but that the Luxembourg government has not yet approved them. According to the explanation provided by ONA, it is easier to set up and manage a limited number of larger facilities than a lot of small facilities; small facilities will be more suitable as housing used for an extended period after people obtain refugee status.
The Luxembourg government has stated that the aid provided to the refugees currently is the same as that provided for previous waves of refugees. The refugees being housed at the SHUK receive free meals and around €200 per month per adult. The Luxembourg government is responsible for this, but the City is willing to contribute additional assistance should the Luxembourg government wish to make changes in this regard.
The motion submitted by the CSV group and DP will be sent to the relevant advisory committee so that a detailed discussion can take place. The College of Aldermen will keep the Municipal Council abreast any and all developments.
Gasperich elementary school
QUESTION POSED BY CHRISTA BRÖMMEL
During the general meeting of the Gasperich local interest group in June 2021, several complaints were voiced about the security and condition of the school buildings, which are on an enclosed campus. Damage has occurred over time in several buildings. Is it true that the Gasperich elementary school was burgled several times? What damage was sustained? Were the culprits found? Did the City take steps to secure the site and prevent future burglaries?
Are the two caretaker accommodations currently occupied, or are there plans for them to be occupied? If the caretaker accommodation on the first floor of the "Spillschoul" were occupied, would that help to better monitor the site in the evenings and on weekends?
Have any other school sites been burgled? Were there any repercussions for the educational operations? Can the College of Aldermen provide specific information on the condition of the old building, on Rue de Gasperich, and that of the "Spillschoul" at the intersection of Rue Verdi and Rue Rossini? Is renovation under way? What is the projected completion date for this work? Is it true that a number of pupils who live in Gasperich attend school in Cessange?
Does this situation result from a lack of classrooms, increase in number of pupils (particuarly in Cycle 1) and the fact that children from other municipalities who are enrolled in private childcare centres in the district attend the Gasperich school? Is this situation expected to continue? What transport is provided for these pupils? Is the College of Aldermen still proceeding with plans to build a new "Spillschoul" south of the new municipal crèche on Rue de Gasperich? How does the College of Aldermen plan to handle the influx of pupils to the current buildings of the Gasperich school and childcare centre if this new crèche is not built? Are there other infrastructural projects planned for the whole site?
RESPONSE BY MAYOR, LYDIE POLFER
The authority to find and punish burglars lies with the police and the justice system.
RESPONSE BY ALDERWOMAN COLETTE MART
There have been four burglaries at the Gasperich school.
The first occurred in the nursery school on Rue Verdi. Nothing was stolen in that incident.
The elementary school was burgled over the 2021 Easter weekend. The caretaker noticed it on 6 April 2021. The intruders forced open the secondary door to the underground level, stole computer equipment and painted graffiti on the walls of the building.
The third incident occurred during the night of 13 April 2021. The caretaker discovered this burglary on the morning of 14 April. The intruders forced open three entry doors to get into the building. They tried – unsuccessfully – to use a fire extinguisher to break through the window of the entry door to the sports centre. The damage from the third burglary was more significant: computer equipment was damaged, three external doors and an inner double door were forced open, there was graffiti on the floor of three classrooms, graffiti on two classroom doors, damage to eight classroom doors and paint on a curtain in a classroom, and all the fire extinguishers in the basement corridors were emptied.
It cost a total of €104,115.94 to repair the damage caused during these two break-ins. The City's insurance will cover this damage.
A fourth burglary took place last night. We do not yet have any details.
There were also four burglaries in the Hollerich school – where computer equipment was stolen or damaged – and two in the Rue Gaston Diderich school in Belair.
The College of Aldermen responded to these burglaries by replacing the computers in the schools with laptops for the teachers, and it recommended that the teachers take them home in the evenings. The College of Aldermen also plans to issue a call for tenders to hire a security firm to handle security for the buildings.
The school campuses are not closed outside of school hours because people need to be able enter the schoolyards, which function as public playgrounds. Remember that the City received complaints after the schoolyard of the Rue Demy Schlechter school was closed after school hours.
One of the two caretaker accommodations is currently occupied.
As for the renovations, the windows of the elementary school will be renovated and the classrooms will be repainted. Roof insulation is planned, and the basement windows on the Rue de Gasperich side should be replaced.
The entry doors of the "Spillschoul" (19, Rue Verdi) will be replaced and the toilets will be renovated. The building located at 19, Rue Verdi will be replaced in the next five years by a new building for Cycle 1 that will be built on a plot next to the scouts lodge on Rue Kemmer.
An extension of the school building on Rue de Gasperich is planned for 2026. It is incorrect to say that there has been an increase in the number of Cycle 1 pupils in Gasperich.
Only a few children living in other municipalities and enrolled in private childcare centres attend the Gasperich school. These children are not taken into account in the organisation of the City's schools.
Right now, there are no openings in the Gasperich early learning centre, but there are no plans to add a third class because there is insufficient enrolment. Four children who live in Gasperich are enrolled in the early learning centre in Cessange at the express request of their parents. There are no school buses between Gasperich and Cessange. There are four children left on the waiting list for the Gasperich early learning centre. In all four cases, the parents submitted their applications after the enrolment deadline. Children living in other municipalities are not accepted into the early learning centre, so it would be false to say that children living in Gasperich are turned down for the early learning centre because children from other municipalities have taken spots.
Environmental and social footprint of municipal employees' workwear
QUESTION POSED BY FRANÇOIS BENOY
The textile industry has many negative repercussions, especially in terms of CO2 emissions and water and soil pollution. Child labour is rife in this industry. On average, each resident of Luxembourg discards 12.26 kg of textiles per year. To address the many harmful social and environmental consequences of the textile industry, it is important to use certified clothing sourced from organic, fair trade raw materials. However, it is also important to use clothing for longer or reuse it.
Which City of Luxembourg departments receive workwear? How many employees does this apply to? How often is clothing replaced, and what happens to this clothing after it is used? Does the City purchase fair trade workwear sourced from organic materials? Which certifications do the items have? In the future, does the College of Aldermen plan to exclusively purchase fair trade clothing sourced from organic raw materials, or even use recycled or upcycled materials?
RESPONSE BY ALDERMAN PATRICK GOLDSCHMIDT
There are 27 municipal departments that use workwear, which corresponds to around 1,700 City employees. This clothing is replaced when it no longer fits, when it is so worn out that it can no longer be repaired or when the employee retires or changes job. After the clothing is used, the logos are removed and the clothing is collected by social service organisations (e.g. Jongenheem), which recycle it.
Wherever relevant and possible, workwear items are certified with a fair trade/organic (for cotton products) label. This applies not only to workwear but also to cotton bags, race T-shirts, towels and bathrobes for the swimming pools and many other items.
The City has been a "Fairtrade Gemeng" since 2013. Fair trade products purchased by the City most often bear the "Fairtrade Max Havelaar" label, which encompasses all the criteria set out by the European Parliament to define fair trade. If the Fairtrade label is not available, products are certified "Fair Wear". Depending on market availability, products may also bear the organic label, which is recognised in Europe, and the "OEKO-TEX 100" label. Polyester clothing is made out of recycled polyester. It is harder for a municipality to use workwear produced through upcycling given that such clothing does not meet the City's quality standards. Fairtrade-certified workwear is of superior quality and more comfortable than clothing purchased before the "Fairtrade Gemeng" certification. The higher price of this clothing is offset by its longer useful life.
Place Jeanne d'Arc in Bonnevoie
QUESTION POSED BY FRANÇOIS BENOY
Place Jeanne d'Arc is used simultaneously as a car park, vel'OH! station and location for recycling containers. The paving in the square is in very poor condition. Many schoolchildren and their parents cross Place Jeanne d'Arc on their way to the nearby school complex.
There is a dropped kerb in three places on the square so that cars can enter from all sides. This makes the square especially dangerous for children. There is not even a footpath on the side where the school is.
How does the College of Aldermen plan to rehabilitate this square, which has a great deal of potential to improve residents' quality of life, and to make it safer for pedestrians? What will be done to improve safety on the path which schoolchildren take to the school complex? Which other squares in Luxembourg City will be rehabilitated in the coming years, and what are the timelines for this work?
RESPONSE PROVIDED BY ALDERMAN SERGE WILMES
There is already a project in the pipeline to redevelop Place Jeanne d'Arc. There is a coordinated project in progress under the multiyear plan developed by the Service Coordination des chantiers (Work-Site Coordination Department) to redevelop Rue Nic Martha. The existing plans for development in Place Jeanne d'Arc fall under the aegis of this project. The project, which is being developed in consultation with the Service Hygiène (Sanitation Department), Service Espace public, fêtes et marchés (Public Spaces, Festivals and Markets Department), Service Circulation (Traffic Department), Service Autobus (Bus Department) and Service Éclairage public (Public Lighting Department), will involve a minor redevelopment replacing the the final paving, updating or adjusting the parking space markings in accordance with the latest standards, installing a bus shelter and tactile guidance slabs for the blind and visually impaired, and creating a green strip the length of the bus stop to separate the pavement with the waiting area from the parking zone and thus improve pedestrian safety.
The recycling containers belonging to the Service Hygiène will be relocated underground. Two Chargy stations will be installed. The vel'OH! station will remain where it currently is. The pavement will be replaced on both sides of Rue Nic Martha. The area around the junction and the section near the school will be redeveloped or refurbished to improve the overall situation – particularly pedestrian safety.
Events were held on Place Jeanne d'Arc in summer 2021. The site will still be able to be used for events in the future.
Place Spidolsgaart in Pfaffenthal is currently being redeveloped.
The final plan to redevelop the central square in Pulvermuehle and the square located between two petrol stations is currently being developed with input from the public. It will be completed in a number of phases over the course of the next few years.
A public consultation is under way in relation to Place Sauerwiss in Gasperich. Place de France will be redeveloped temporarily before a public consultation process begins in the second half of 2023 to gather ideas for the final redevelopment of the square.
Public consultations have also been organised for Rue de Strasbourg (where redevelopment will begin in 2023) and for Place de Paris (where work has been completed).
The City also wants to consult the public on the redevelopment of Place de la Gare. Several retailers on Avenue de la Gare expressed a desire to see that street redeveloped, but we need to decide whether it would be wise to undertake major construction on Avenue de la Gare at this time, or whether it would be better to revisit the issue in connection with the redevelopment of the train station, potentially with temporary development on Avenue de la Gare.