Referrals to a British government anti-radicalisation scheme doubled in 2015, according to figures published on Monday.
The figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPPC), which were released to the BBC, show that 2,003 under-18s were referred to the Channel programme last year, two-thirds of them over concerns they were vulnerable to recruitment by extremist Islamist groups such as Islamic State. A further 525 were referred for reasons related to far-right extremism.
Channel was set up after the 7 July, 2005 London bombings to coordinate efforts by government agencies to identify children who may be vulnerable recruitment by gangs or extremist groups. The programme gives individuals access to services such as health, education, specialist mentoring and diversionary activities.
According to the NPPC, between 2007 and 2014 there were 3934 referrals to the Channel process, an average of 562 a year. Today’s figures show a dramatic rise in referrals as the war in Syria and so-called Islamic State’s slick online propaganda machine have drawn thousands of western recruits to the Middle East.
Government powers introduced in July 2015 force teachers, social workers and health workers to report signs of radicalisation. Critics say the strategy risks labelling Muslims with beards as terrorists and alienating sections of society.