Speaking up for young people
December 11, 2008 — Interview
Written by Laura Marshall
An interview with 13-year-old Asiya Hassan, a member of the Bristol City Academy steering committee that organised a forum on the detention of asylum-seeking children.
What made you decide to organise ‘Time for Questions’?
Several months ago, some friends and I organised a one-day conference in Easton Community Centre on the issue of children in detention centres. We did this because some of our friends had been detained, and we were shocked by their experiences. The way they were treated while in detention was unbelievable. They weren’t allowed the rights that a normal kid should have. After the conference we decided that we should take this further – that MPs and councillors should get involved and start answering our questions.
What do you hope to achieve with this event?
I want to raise awareness of what’s going on. We must stop detention centres, particularly the detention of children, and make the UK a more welcoming place. At the moment it is not at all welcoming to refugees. I also hope to gain respect for young people. Our hopes should come true and we should be able to put pressure on people in power to achieve this.
Was it easy to organise such a big event?
It has been very difficult – there have been challenges I didn’t expect. But I’m gaining lots of skills which will be useful to me in the future. In addition to the general experience and responsibility gained from organising a big event, it is great to get experience on this particular issue as I hope to go into a career in politics. I’ve also met lots of new people who have all been very helpful.
Do you think young people have enough opportunity to have their voices heard?
No! Absolutely not! Young people need to speak up for themselves if they want their voices heard, which is what I’m doing right now. In order to get our point across we need to organise many more events like this. And we will be heard, no matter what it takes.
So do children have the same human rights as adults in our society today?
Yes and no. In this case, the whole problem is to do with children being treated the same as adults, being locked up in detention centres which are NO PLACE FOR CHILDREN.
Are young people proactive enough in the community? If not, why not?
Some are, but some are not. I think some kids just need a little bit of help in order to get their voices heard. They also need to grow in confidence, and maybe be made aware of the ways in which they can be heard. Some people just aren’t aware of what happens around them, or if they are aware, often they don’t take much action. My hope is to empower young people to get out and do things they’ve never done before – to campaign for positive things, for change.
You seem very engaged, do you have another campaign in mind after this one?
My next campaign will be about knife crime, and how we can make Bristol, and the UK, a much safer place to live. At the moment it isn’t. Levels of knife crime in this country are already atrocious, and are increasing. Something must be done about this.
Read an IRR News story: Pioneering a new educational forum
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.