Migration in Asia

Yijun Zhen: “Like Opening a Window to a New Reality”

Yijun Zhen is a student at the Master’s Programme in International Human Rights Law in Lund. She comes from China, driven by her ambition to learn about a subject she didn’t have the chance to study in her home country.

“I wanted to come to Europe because of its many years of experience in the human rights field,” she says.

With a bachelor’s degree in Law and some years of experience as a legal practitioner, she moved to Lund a year and a half ago to begin her studies. Now, only a semester away from finishing her studies, she tells us about her experience as an intern at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute during the last term.

Why did you want to work at RWI?

I heard about the Institute once I started in the Master’s Programme. Its reputation is well-known internationally. When I first arrived to Lund, I was mainly focused on the Master’s degree, but after one year of study I was dying to apply my newly acquired knowledge. So I thought that the internship offered by RWI was a good chance to do so.

What did you do during your internship?

I worked at the Asian Unit. The atmosphere was quite pleasant and inspiring. My supervisor and colleagues at the Institute gave me a lot of great guidance and advice. It was quite useful for the project I was working on, which was focused on migration in Southern Asia. More specifically, I would analyze the situation of “People On the Move” in reference to those vulnerable groups in the region such as unskilled migrant workers and victims of trafficking.

Why do you think your project was relevant?

I think it was quite fascinating to study the impact that the new changes introduced by the ASEAN organization had on these vulnerable groups. One of these changes created a freedom of movement area for goods and people in the territories that the organization comprises.

However, in practice, this right is limited to skilled migrant workers and travelers. The most vulnerable groups are left behind, only to be protected by soft-law instruments. I hope this situation changes in the long-term.

What was your lasting impression of this experience?

For me this experience was like opening a window to a new reality. I had the chance to look closer at the lives of people living in different parts of the world from a human rights perspective. It further inspired me to decide what I wanted my thesis to be about. Looking back, I still consider I was immensely lucky to have been chosen among so many strong candidates. I will never forget the gratification to witness how this project could make a difference in the real world.


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