Children Belong in Classrooms, Not Detention Centres: Shpresa Programme at Parliament Square, advocating against Child Detention

27 June 2023: Action Day at Parliament Square where we all had a chance to share our stories and stand up against the threatening legislation that aims to reinstate Child Detention for Immigrant Children

On the 27th June, 2023, I had the heartwarming privilege to come together with friends, groups and individuals with whom we aimed to raise awareness and advocate for the protection of refugee children by addressing the implications of the Illegal Immigration Act.

“A threatening legislation, which aims to undermine and circumvent the protections established by the 2014 Immigration Act, potentially reintroducing detention of children for immigration purposes, for those who arrive in the UK after March 7th 2023. If implemented, this could result in the mass and prolonged detention of up to 45,000 children within the first three years of the law’s passing. “ – Citizens UK

We’re really just a drop in the ocean, and that’s how I felt when I first arrived as an asylum seeker, an insignificant ocean drop, silently merging with the rest of the crowd – that is what survival is, merge, be quiet, look around, be on guard, take responsibility, sometimes more than you can handle; survival is something that my community (The Albanian community) is very good at. Now, ‘Living’, is a different challenge, more than a challenge, with time and through circumstances, it becomes a luxury; while we lose the awareness that it is a human right. The right to life, a healthy, dignified, and hopeful life.

I can confidently say that this experience has left an indelible mark on my heart and further solidified my belief in the power of collective action and the importance of fighting for justice. In this blog post, I want to share my heartfelt reflections on this impactful event and the hope it has ignited within me.

A Glimpse of Hope

As I walked towards Parliament Square, the atmosphere was charged with a sense of purpose and determination. Individuals from all walks of life had gathered, united by their shared concern for the welfare of children affected by detention policies. The square buzzed with conversations, ideas, and an unwavering commitment to effect change.

The Child Detention action was a wonderful moment of storytelling and solidarity. People from across the country, of all ages and backgrounds, joined to share their anger at the cruel proposals of the UK government and used their collective power to call for change. It was a privilege to be a part of it!
Lambeth Citizens UK

Voices Amplified

The event commenced with impassioned speakers who shared their stories and shed light on the injustices faced by detained children. Listening to their firsthand accounts was a poignant reminder that behind every statistic and news headline, there are real lives at stake. These brave voices brought the harsh reality of child detention to the forefront, urging us all to take action.

Educating and Inspiring

Throughout the action, informative stands were taken from different organisations such as Citizens UK, St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School, South London Refugee Association and Coram, along Shpresa Programme, distributing leaflets, and information packs and having conversations, providing valuable insights into the current burdens of young asylum seekers and the urgent need for action. Experts in the field shared their expertise, highlighting the long-lasting effects of detention on a child’s well-being and development.

The Citizens action against child detention was a powerful moment of solidarity that made me feel part of a community of people that care about the basic rights of children who come to this country for safety. The humanity, wisdom and strength shown at the event from organisers, people who have experience of the immigration system and the school choir offers hope at a moment of worry and fear about what this Bill means for people seeking safety in the UK.

“It was wonderful to be a part of this action in Parliament Square and hear the testimonies of those most effected by child detention “The People”.   A bill like this destroys the fabric of families and communities.

The power was shown through the collective work and standing in solidarity for those who have suffered the painful injustice of child detention.  The children of St Antony’s Catholic Primary School, Forest Gate…really set the scene of the action with the haunting song

“I Am A Stanger” with lyrics saying “I am an Alien, I am unwanted and there is no one to take me in!”

This is how people feel, humans feel in this hostile environment we must remember they are humans, and these young children are singing about the injustice of children being detained and unlike them having the privilege to be in the classroom

The Power of Advocacy:

Standing right in front of the venue where the new legislation was to be discussed, I witnessed firsthand how passionate advocacy and collaboration can translate into tangible steps towards reform. The energy and determination in the square were palpable, fuelling our belief that change is indeed possible.

Moving Forward:

Leaving the action day, I carried with me a renewed sense of purpose and a deepened commitment to amplifying the voices of those who are often silenced. I am reminded that the fight for justice and compassion is an ongoing journey, and I am honoured to be part of it. Through continued advocacy, raising awareness, and supporting organizations dedicated to this cause, we can collectively strive for a world where every child is afforded the protection, care, and dignity they deserve.


Attending the action day on child detention laws was a transformative experience that stirred my emotions, ignited my passion, and reaffirmed my belief in the power of unity and activism. The event served as a poignant reminder that change begins with us, with our willingness to stand up, speak out, and work tirelessly to protect the rights and well-being of vulnerable children. Let us continue to be agents of change, fuelled by hope, compassion, and the unwavering belief that a better future is within our reach.

Together, we can create a world where every child is free from the harsh realities of detention and instead embraced with open arms, love, and the opportunity to thrive. Children belong in schools, not detention camps.

Amina Meshnuni

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