Thousands of Muslim children and teenagers were referred to the government’s controversial anti-terror programme in England and Wales last year, new Home Office figures show.
There were 7,631 referrals to Prevent in 2015-16, a quarter of which were of under-15s.
Advcacy group CAGE said Prevent is creating a “suspect” community where Muslim children and their families are being dragged through disastrous state intervention.
CAGE added that the figures ignore the climate of fear created by Prevent, which has led to many more formal and informal interventions by public sector workers that do not make these official statistics.
This is the first time the government has published detailed figures on Prevent which was created in 2003 with the stated aim of stopping terrorism.
Under the law, public sector workers, including teachers, lecturers and doctors, are obliged to look out for the “signs of extremism” and report them to counter terrorism officers if necessary.
The figures reveal that 2,127 of those referred to the scheme in 2015-16 were under 15, including more than 500 girls.
Another 2,147 people reported were aged between 15 and 20 – meaning more than half of the 7,631 people referred in the 12 months to March 2016 were aged 20 or under.
Approximately 65% of the Prevent referrals related to “Islamist/jihadist extremism” and 10% concerned right-wing extremism.
The remaining cases were either impossible to initially categorise, because the individual was flitting between ideologies, or involved smaller threats relating to Northern Ireland, or Sikh extremism.
The highest number of cases came from London – 1,915 individuals – followed by 1,273 the North East, an area covering Yorkshire to the Scottish border.
The latest figures show that the vast majority of people referred to Prevent required either no official support, or were given help with a problem unrelated to violent extremism.
But 1,072 individuals caused such alarm they were assessed for inclusion in Channel, the government’s intensive de-radicalisation programme.
Of those cases, 381 went on to receive specialist help in an attempt to change their thinking – and 302 were later given the all-clear.
Sixteen of those were still in the process at the time the figures were collated, but a further 63 people withdrew from the scheme – meaning they stopped co-operating with expert mentors altogether.
Chief Constable Simon Cole, the national policing lead for Prevent, said the number of referrals showed that “trust and support is growing” for the programme. And Security Minister Ben Wallace said the Channel scheme was helping to “save lives” and had seen “real results” in helping divert people away from terrorism.
However, Ibrahim Mohamoud, spokesperson for CAGE, called on the government to scrap Prevent.
He said: “The massive over reporting and racial profiling is due to the fact that the Prevent policy has no scientific basis. The science does not exist and these figures reinforce the bare fact that the policy does not work. The Government’s own figures show that 95% of people referred to Prevent required no Channel intervention.”
“The idea that a failed policy that has largely impacted on Muslims should be implemented against other communities is not a position that should be endorsed. Seeking credibility by applying Prevent on other communities does not make it okay.
“We again call on the Government to repeal the Prevent Policy, roll back the training and make every effort to repair the damage that has been done.”