Ongoing and concluded PhDs

PhD researcher or student information

Isaac Brock Muhambya

Link to website with profile:

Discipline: Law

Degrees BA: Law


Master's degree in Private and Judicial Law

Advanced master in International Law

Advanced master in Quantitative methods applied in Social sciences

PhD Research Information

The Effectiveness of Circular Migration: A Study of the Factors Influencing the Mobility of Skilled Migrants between Belgium and the DR Congo

Brief description:

From the outset, circular migration is a concept that is increasingly in vogue in policy arenas both internationally and within the European Union (IOM, 2008; COM (2007) 248 final; ECE/CES/2016/3; Joint Africa-EU Strategy, 2007). Moreover, legally, this concept has almost no basis in international, regional, and national instruments (Elmadmad, 2008). Furthermore, this notion does not have a universal definition (EMN, 2011), it is defined in various ways (IOM, 2008). This lack of conceptual clarity confuses the related policy debate (Thormann, Koch A. et al., 2011).
One definition states that circular migration is a form of migration in which people repeatedly move back and forth between two or more countries (IOM, 2019, p.29), it commonly refers to repeated fluid movement between two countries (IOM,2008, p.55). When migration is managed in a way that allows for some degree of legal mobility in both directions between two countries (COM (2007) 248 final, p.9), when it is voluntary and linked to the labor needs of both sending and receiving countries, it can be beneficial for all (GFMD, 2007, p.85).
Circular migration is thus promoted as an advantageous solution for both countries of origin and destination, as well as for the migrants themselves (Thormann, Koch A. et al., 2011). It highlights the "triple win hypothesis" (ECE/CES/2016/3, p.2): first, in destination countries, it can help mitigate labor needs and increase economic output (ECE/CES/2016/3, p.2). Second, in countries of origin, human capital is not permanently lost, migrants "are very likely to send remittances home to prepare for their return, and workers often return with new skills" (IOM, 2010, p.53), it can help alleviate unemployment (ECE/CES/2016/3, pp.8-9).Third, migrants also benefit, through increased income, work experience and skill development. Circular migration can help "match labor supply and demand at the international level, thus contributing to a more efficient allocation of available resources and to economic growth" (COM (2007) 248 final, pp.8-9).
In light of the "triple win hypothesis" of circular migration, do the international, European, Belgian, and Congolese legal frameworks govern circular migration ? De facto, what is the extent of circular migration of skilled Congolese between Belgium and the DRCongo, and what are the influencing factors for such mobility/fluidity?
To respond to the challenges of implementing circular migration of skilled migrants, this study attempts to understand the different rationales that underlie the existing legal frameworks (international, European, Belgian, and Congolese) that govern movements (entry, stay, and return).
In particular, this work seeks to:

- Inspects the evolution of the framework referred to above and tests its impact to determine what opportunities (or limitations) it leaves for the circulation of skilled Congolese between Belgium and the DRC;
- Study the extent of Congolese migration between Belgium and the DRC, the characteristics of those who circulate, their aspirations, and the factors that affect their trajectory.


Circular migration is a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary study. It highlights relevant legal, demographic, sociological, economic and political aspects. The topic is relevant and - by combining a legal and socio-demographic approach (qualitative and quantitative) - has the potential to lead to original results. From an organizational point of view, this study will consist of two parts: Part 1 on the legal framework will use the legal method (exegesis, hermeneutics, systematic), the historical method, and the comparative method. Part 2 on the factors favoring circular migration between the DRC and Belgium will adopt a mixed-methods approach, which is defined as "research in which the researcher mixes or combines quantitative and qualitative research techniques, methods, approaches, concepts or language in a single study" (Johnson et al., 2004, p.17). Compared to a single qualitative or quantitative method, a mixed method has the advantage of providing in-depth analysis, as it draws on a body of narrative information provided by the qualitative method to better understand the numerical results and trends derived from the quantitative method (Johnson et al., 2004). That said, for a thorough and consistent analysis, efforts will be made to match the qualitative and narrative survey results with the quantitative results.

Keywords: EU Migration Law and Policy, highly-skilled migrants, Circular Migration, Legal framework

Language(s) of writing: French

Country: Belgium

Home University:

Université Catholique de Louvain



Supervisor: Sylvie SAROLEA
Start date: 15-11-2022
PhD research funded by: Family (90%) + Université des Pays des Grands Lacs Goma/RDCongo (10%)
Name of grant:
Added to catalogue on: 16-06-2022

Additional information:

Since I don't have sufficient funds, I have submitted an application for one of the doctoral scholarships that you are offering. I rely heavily on this grant in order to be able to attend the Odysseus summer school.