Advocacy group CAGE has said the government’s newly-released Prevent statistics for 2018 demonstrate how the policy continues to increasingly target and securitise children.
The latest figures showed thousands of children and teenagers being flagged up over terror concerns. In the year to March, 2,009 under-15s were referred, including 297 girls.
The number in the youngest age group increased by a fifth on the previous year, while more than half of those reported for possible de-radicalisation interventions in 2017/18 were 20 or under.
But 95% of all referrals to Prevent did not result in any action by the Channel programme that provides support to people who might be vulnerable to radicalisation, meaning the vast majority of Prevent referrals were false alarms.
The latest Prevent figures show that, of those referred to Prevent in 2017/18:
- 3,096 (42%) left the process requiring no further action
- 2,902 (40%) left the process and were signposted to alternative services
- 1,314 (18%) were discussed by Channel,
- Of the cases examined by Channel, 394 subsequently received support through the scheme, including 114 aged under 15.
In addition, Muslims make up only 5% of the population yet “Islamist” related concerns make up 44% of all referrals.
Asim Qureshi, Research Director for CAGE said: “In the UK, we have a panoply of offences that operate in the pre-criminal space. The idea that future ‘terrorists’ have been somehow dissuaded through Prevent, particularly when the numbers do not correlate to actual violent offenders, is ridiculous at best.
“What is always missing from these discussions is the long-term impact of false referrals. With a large portion stemming from the education sector, the fundamental relationship between student and teacher is changed forever – the student will forever feel a suspect.
“We could speak of one false referral being one too many, but the reality is that we are already speaking about this in the thousands, where a 95% inaccuracy rate is harming the future of our children.”
Meanwhile, the number of people referred to the UK’s terrorism-prevention programme over concerns related to extreme right-wing activity jumped by 36% in 2017/18.
The controversial Prevent scheme is essentially a system which aims to identify vulnerable people and intervene in their lives before something bad happens.
The local panels – which include police, social workers and other experts – look at reports coming in from teachers, the public, the NHS and others.
Security minister Ben Wallace said the programme tackled radicalisation “wherever it is found”.
The Home Office said that, of those who have left the Channel process, more than four in five did so with “no further terrorism-related concerns”.
While police and ministers say Prevent forms a crucial plank of anti-terror efforts, the scheme has repeatedly come under fire, with critics labelling it heavy-handed and “toxic”.