02/2008: Prof. Philippe De Bruycker


Prof. Dr. Philippe De Bruycker
Coordinator of the Academic Network for Legal
Studies on Immigration and Asylum in Europe
(Odysseus, Brussels)


‘Current research and educational priorities on immigration and asylum in Europe’


Ü Eurasylum: The Academic Network for Legal Studies on Immigration and Asylum in Europe (Odysseus), which was established in 1998 with the financial support of the European Commission, brings together reputable academics from each Member State of the European Union. The Network carries out a range of comparative studies related to national and EU legal and policy instruments in the field of immigration and asylum, including on behalf of the European Commission. Could you guide us through some of the main research outputs generated by the Network since its creation and discuss the ways and areas in which research priorities in the field of immigration and asylum in Europe might have evolved over the last decade ?

Ü Prof. Philippe De Bruycker: The Odysseus Network started its work in 1999 with a comparative study on the regularisations of illegal migrants implemented by many EU Member States during the last 30 years. On the basis of the national reports generated by this project we organised a conference to compare our data, which resulted in a theory of the different models of regularisations, which was subsequently published as a book. The European Commission used our model in its Communication of 2004 on the links between legal and illegal immigration. We hope that this model will still be of relevance to the upcoming French Presidency of the EU, when it prepares a Pact on immigration to be adopted by the European Council in December 2008.

The need for comparative research into the laws and policies on migration of the EU Member States has increased considerably over the last few years. In 2006 we conducted a study for the European Commission on the implementation of the directive on reception conditions for asylum seekers, which showed that EU law had a positive impact on the rights and interests of migrants and refugees in the Member States. This was in sharp contrast with what many observers and NGOs had been assuming and repeating for years. The Commission has recently asked the Odysseus network to compare the way in which the 27 Member Sates implement 10 directives in the field of immigration and asylum, an assignment which has involved about 130 lawyers from the 27 Member States. It remains to be seen whether the outcome of this exercise will be similar to the results of our first study on the Reception directive.

Ü Eurasylum: In September 2006, the Odysseus Neytwork launched the first ever academic curriculum on European Immigration and Asylum Law, tailored to the needs of civil servants, lawyers and NGOs. In addition, the Network has recently completed, under the auspices of the General Directors Immigration Services Conference (GDISC), and in cooperation with the Swedish, Dutch, Czech and Spanish Immigration Services, the first ever European Asylum Curriculum (EAC), which aims to strengthen practical cooperation among the European asylum/immigration systems. Can you discuss the contents, as well as the policy and practical relevance, of these two initiatives?

Ü Prof. Philippe De Bruycker: After having successfully launched, in 2001, our first summer school programme (now organised every year in July in Brussels), we wanted to offer a more in-depth programme by creating a Certificate in European Immigration and Asylum Law. This is a specialised programme which attracts for the second time this year about 20 graduate students and young professionals. We want to offer both lawyers and non-lawyers the possibility to study the emerging legal framework on immigration and asylum, particularly since many professionals involved in this policy area still lack the necessary knowledge to approach such a new and complex legal field.

The European Asylum Curriculum, in turn, is directed at public officials of the Member States in charge of asylum cases. There is indeed a need to improve their training on a common European basis by completing the process of legal harmonisation with practical cooperation between Member States. This should also contribute to giving more substance to the future Common European Asylum System. Moreover, the EAC is based on the use of new technologies which require participants to receive training on the basis of on-line modules. We are convinced that this will improve the quality of training and will avoid that every trainer reinvents the wheel successively in each Member State.

Our hope in the long term is to extend the EAC to the immigration sector and to replace our certificate with a programme combining long distance learning with residential weekends attracting participants from all over Europe.

Ü Eurasylum: With its academic resources in all the EU member states the Odysseus network is well equipped to identify emerging needs for further research and educational opportunities in the field of immigration and asylum policy in the European Union. Can you outline some of these emerging needs and discuss the way in which you anticipate research priorities in the field of immigration and asylum to evolve over the next five to ten years ?

Ü Prof. Philippe De Bruycker: Apart from the comparison of laws and policies of the EU Member States, there is a strong need to link research and practice, to study how migration and asylum work in reality, and to develop innovative pilot projects and see how they function. We should avoid an artificial debate beween fundamental and applied research, or about the independence of researchers, and should not be afraid to link, to some degree, the research and policy agendas. Policy-makers need more research and researchers can benefit considerably from practical information.

At the moment there is still a waste of resources. There are no databases compiling reports and research projects carried out in the EU, and there is a lot of duplication and sometimes limited added value in individual research efforts. Furthermore, EU institutions such as the Commission and Parliament do not coordinate their research initiatives. We need a body for discussion between researchers and high level policy makers in order to define priorities on a sound basis. I hope that the institutionalisation of the European Migration Network (EMN) foreseen in 2008 on the basis of a Council decision will be an opportunity to establish a link between research and policy.