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Luxembourg - Poverty in Europe's Wealthiest Country

April 26, 2024

Luxembourg is seen as an oasis of luxury in Europe, but poverty and homelessness are on the rise.

Nahaufnahme Luxemburg: Arm im reichsten Land Europas
Image: SWR

While the government has done little to respond here, NGOs are doing what they can to combat the most extreme levels of hardship.

Luxembourg is a financial hub and home to the European Court of Justice as well as countless shell companies. And with the highest per capita GDP anywhere in the world, the country is also known for its wealth and luxury. But there's a different, lesser-known side to the grand duchy. Alexandra Oxacelay is with "Stëmm vun der Strooss,” an NGO dedicated to taking care of people who are homeless and socially vulnerable. The soup kitchen run by this charity is seeing a growing number of people searching for shelter, a hot meal and support.

Nahaufnahme Luxemburg: Arm im reichsten Land Europas
Alexandra OxacelayImage: SWR

One of them is Stephan from Hungary, who's spent the last seven years living in a tent - even during winter. Alexandra has also noticed an increase in the number of "working poor,” or people struggling to make ends meet despite having a job. Serge Kappel suffers from chronic inflammatory back pain and has been unable to find an apartment he can afford due to a dramatic increase in rental costs.

Researcher Antoine Paccoud attributes this to rampant speculation on the real estate market and insufficient funding for social housing. Alexandra can at least provide affordable housing for some people in need. But that help is limited when compared to the growing number of Luxembourgers and refugees who have become dependent on the NGO while living in the shadows of high-profile office buildings.

Poverty in Luxembourg has become an increasingly divisive issue. Yannick Wirtz, who is out of work, feels let down by the government and says there should be greater restrictions on immigration. Whereas NGO director Alexandra Oxacelay refuses to discriminate when it comes to the disadvantaged - insisting that in the wealthiest country in Europe, everyone deserves to be helped.



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