2 Feb 2018

Doing research that matters

The realization of just how profound the impact of migration law is in people’s lives made Jessica Schultz dedicate her research efforts to immigration and asylum policies.

-There is a big disconnect between the formal approaches to human rights and refugee law and the actual realities for many displaced people, says Jessica Schultz, researcher and senior adviser at CMI’s U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre. She has worked extensively on immigration and asylum policies, and completed her PhD dissertation on the internal protection alternative in refugee law last year.

Schultz was recently appointed Norwegian representative to the Odysseus network along with Maja Janmyr at the University of Oslo. The Odysseus network is an academic network of legal experts in immigration and asylum in Europe, and is a platform for the exchange of knowledge and expertise between academics, policy-makers, practitioners and NGOs in the field of immigration and asylum law and policy.

Recent years' influx of migrants and refugees to European countries have caused heated debates, challenged public perceptions and migration laws. Some countries have responded by building walls, others have insisted that they have a moral obligation to welcome migrants and refugees. Undoubtedly, migration has been one of the biggest issues on the European agenda since 2015. The Odysseus network is more relevant than ever.

-The EU and member states have taken measures outside their own borders to prevent migrants from accessing their territory. The EU-Turkey agreement and cooperation with the Libyan coast guard to "pull back" people attempting to cross the Mediterranean are two examples. These measures can be challenged by European human rights and refugee law, but the question is  - on what basis? For example, can the cooperation of the EU and its Member States with the Libyan coast guard generate international responsibility even though there is no direct legal link between the actions of Libyan authorities, like mistreatment of migrants in detention, and  Europe or individual states? How do pull-back policies engage human rights norms like the right to leave a country?

Schultz is deeply engaged by the dilemmas of migration laws and highly motivated by the possibility to work in a field of research that has a very clear policy dimension.

- Migration law is an area where there is not a lot of fixed precedent, so research often has a strong and obvious policy dimension. It is rewarding to influence the way a law is drafted, or the way it is interpreted, because human lives are so profoundly affected, she says.

Together with colleagues at CMI and co-members of the Odysseus network, she hopes to bridge the gap between law and actual life experiences by linking empirical insights from countries of migrant origin or first asylum to the interpretation of legal norms and procedures.

She also looks forward to contribute to strengthening the interest for and the knowledge level on migration law in general. The network coordinates research projects on the implementation of EU laws and regulations in member states, and Schultz will contribute to these comparative studies with findings from Norway. As a member of the Odysseus network, she will teach, both in the summer school in Brussels on EU immigration law and policy, and in an e-learning module. In addition, network members organize and contribute to the annual Odysseus conference, which draws over 200 scholars, activists, policy makers and bureaucrats in Brussels to discuss legal developments in the EU.

-One of the most important roles of the Odysseus network is to nurture young scholars, and engage and inform EU policy making through rigorous academic scholarship, she says.