Rise in referrals to British deradicalisation scheme
Almost 800 people in Britain were referred over three months to an anti-terrorism "deradicalisation" programme, many of them minors, figures published Thursday revealed.
Between June and August this year, 796 people were reported to the government's "Channel" programme, which aims to prevent people deemed "at risk" from being drawn into violent extremism.
Of those, 312 were aged under 18, according to figures from the National Police Chiefs Council obtained after Britain introduced new laws requiring public bodies to help combat radicalisation.
The rate of referrals rose when the legislation came into force in July stating that authorities must "have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism".
Security Minister John Hayes said authorities had a duty to challenge "the twisted narrative that has corrupted some of our vulnerable young people".
There were more referrals between June and August than in the whole of 2012-13 when the Channel scheme was first introduced across England and Wales.
The programme came under the spotlight last week when it emerged that a Muslim boy arrested aged 14 and convicted for plotting a terror attack in Australia from his bedroom in northern England, had previously been referred to the scheme.
The initiative seeks to reduce the risk of violence from extremism of all kinds, including religious, political, racial, and referrals can come from relatives as well as the authorities.
In addition, not everyone referred to Channel goes on to receive support from the scheme, with police estimating that only one in five cases requires such intervention.
"Since Channel was rolled out nationally in April 2012, there have been over 4,000 referrals and hundreds of people at risk of being drawn into terrorism have been provided with support," Hayes said.
"Referrals to Channel have increased, but only a small percentage of these go on to require specialist intervention support."
Haras Rafiq, managing director at security think tank Quilliam, said referrals were increasingly coming from parents and families.
"The lure of extremism has increased over the last year both from an Islamist and far-right perspective. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two," he said.
Participants can receive mentoring, support in life skills and leisure activities, cognitive behavioural therapy or employment guidance as part of the scheme.
Full details are not made public however, and its implementation has led to claims of prejudice against Muslims.
In a recent case, a Muslim boy was questioned about the Islamic State group after he used the word "eco-terrorist" in a classroom discussion about environmental activism, according to the Guardian.
His parents are taking legal action, claiming the 14-year-old was discriminated against at his school in London, where he was asked if he was affiliated with the militant group, the newspaper reported.
© 2015 AFP