New Prevent figures reveal govt counter extremism strategy ‘is targeting children’

Muslim organisations say that new Home Office figures on Prevent referrals prove that the government counter-extremism policy is targeting and traumatising children.

In the year ending March 31, 2022, there were 6,406 referrals to Prevent – an increase of 30% compared to the year ending March 2021 (4,915).

For the second year running, the number of referrals for “extreme right-wing radicalisation” concerns (1,309) was greater than referrals for “Islamist” concerns (1,027).

Of the 804 Channel cases (cases which are considered more serious), the most common were referred due to concerns regarding extreme right-wing radicalisation (339), followed by those with concerns regarding “Islamist” radicalisation (156), and those with a “conflicted ideology” (120).

The education sector made the highest number of referrals (2,305 or 36%) – the highest proportion of referrals received from the sector since data has been compiled.

The next highest number of referrals to Prevent came from the police (1,808).

Most referrals were of males (5,725 or 89%), and those aged 15 to 20 accounted for the largest proportion (1,902 or 30%).

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However, those aged under 15 accounted for an increased proportion of referrals (1,829 or 29%), and those under 15 accounted for the largest proportion of cases that were discussed at a Channel panel (1,486) and adopted as a case (804).

Muslim experts said the Home Office figures confirms that Prevent is a failed policy that is traumatising children.

CAGE’s Head of Public Advocacy Anas Mustapha said: “It’s alarming that the education sector continues to be the largest referrer of cases to Prevent. This underlines how the sector has been co-opted to deliver on what are surveillance operations.

“Proportionally, Prevent remains discriminatory against minority communities. Prevent enables a system of surveillance that clamps down on dissent and freedom of religion that can be weaponised against any group. The Shawcross review demonstrates this clearly in how it brazenly attempts to refocus Prevent on Muslims.

“Far-right talking points and policies have been normalised in our political landscape and even within Parliament and 10 Downing Street. Prevent’s targeting of the far-right is therefore not a rejection of the politics of the far-right but rather a concern with elements that operate outside the purview and control of the state.”

Many Muslim organisations consider Prevent to be a spying and monitoring exercise

And Dr Layla Aitlhadj and Professor John Holmwood, co-authors of the People’s Review of Prevent report, said: “The latest Home Office figures on the Prevent Programme, where the largest proportion of referrals – some 36% – came from the education sector and just under a third of all referrals were children under the age of the 15, confirms one of the major conclusions of the People’s Review of Prevent: that Prevent is a failed policy that is traumatising children.

“Despite committing no crime or having any intention of committing any crime, these 1,829 children will have been interrogated by counter-terrorism officers, some without their parents’ presence or knowledge. They have been left deeply traumatised by the experience and distrustful of the very people they should trust – teachers and the police.

“The government introduced Prevent in 2015 to safeguard vulnerable people who are deemed to be at risk of being radicalised. However, as the People’s Review of Prevent report found last year, Prevent does not stop terrorism. Rather, it is a huge waste of public resources that could otherwise be deployed to the very services that most Prevent referrals – 87% – are found to require. This includes social care, mental health care and education.”

The government says Prevent aims to safeguard vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism. It insists that Prevent is non-discriminatory.

However, Muslim groups have long said that Prevent monitors and profiles Muslims and has had a chilling effect on free speech.

A government review of Prevent, led by the right-wing activist William Shawcross, is due to be published soon as is thought to recommend placing renewed focus on Muslims.

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