WRAP 2021: Aamir Lacewala, C’24, W’24

This summer I had the opportunity to remotely pursue my interest in refugee law as a research assistant under Professor Marjoleine Zieck at the University of Amsterdam Law School. This opportunity through the World Research Assistantship Program (WRAP)  allowed me to dive deep into a field that directly impacts the most vulnerable population on the planet. I studied two key questions: the legal and real distinctions in the rights of asylum seekers and resettlement refugees and the status of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. This research was largely conducted through literature review, survey analysis, and case briefing.

While my research was remote, I had a chance to understand an issue that was rapidly evolving over the course of the summer. As a new wave of Afghan refugees entered Pakistan, I had the opportunity to speak with Professor Zieck, a specialist on Pakistan’s relationship with refugee populations. Her predictions about the timeline of events and the resulting suffering were based on personally knowing many of the people involved in the issue at the highest level. For example, she was speaking to the foreign minister of Pakistan about the response to refugee inflows prior to him giving any statements on the issue to the press.

Through talking with Professor Zieck and others at the University of Amsterdam, I learned a great deal about Dutch culture. There is a sense of collective responsibility to protect one another from COVID that I found fascinating. Additionally, Amsterdam’s location near The Hague, one of the most important international courts, makes it a great place to study international law. Many of the most important decisions regarding the status of refugees were made in Amsterdam, and the access to the University of Amsterdam’s literature allowed me to delve deeper into this history.

This glimpse into the relationship between academia and real-world issues was super exciting, and I appreciated the chance for my research to be involved in that decision-making process. As a result of my research this summer and the world it introduced me to, I joined the student organization Penn for Refugee Empowerment and plan to volunteer using the knowledge of legal processes I gained. I’m enormously thankful for this experience, and I can’t wait to build upon my research.