British jihadists suspected of fighting with Islamic State in Syria could be offered help finding jobs and privileged access to social housing, it has been reported.
A secretive government strategy, named Operation Constrain, could see extremists jump the queue for council houses, the Mail on Sunday reports.
According to official documents seen by the paper, as many as to 20,000 fanatics, previously investigated by the security services, could be offered the sweeteners to persuade them to reject violent radical Islam.
Khuram Butt, the ringleader of the van and knife attack at London Bridge, was part of the larger pool as a former “subject of interest” to the authorities.
On Saturday, terrorism expert Professor Anthony Glees, of Buckingham University, said: “You can’t bribe people not to be terrorists.”
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen added: “This sounds like a reward for being on a list of potential terrorists. You can’t buy people’s loyalty to this country.”
Former radical Islamists turned anti-extremist and gay rights campaigner Sohail Ahmed commented: “There are some people in this country who are still loyal to what Britain stands for and I don’t think they will be having any of this. I sincerely hope these plans do not go ahead.”
The Home Office, police, and local authorities have reportedly drawn up the plans, which will start next year, and could see suspects visited by MI5 and counter-terror officers.
It would be too harsh on the little dears to actually prosecute them for joining the Islamic State… 🙄
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 21, 2017
A Home Office spokesman said the government is “committed to doing everything possible to protect our communities from the threat of terrorism”.
“To respond to this threat, it is vital that we use all the means at our collective disposal to divert people away from terrorist-related activity and we are exploring the best ways of doing this with our partners,” he added.
“We are also reviewing our counter-terrorism strategy to make sure we respond to the evolving threat in the most effective way we can, both now and in the future.”
A Whitehall source added: “We are planning a number of pilots to explore the best way to diverting such people from terrorism and extremist activity.”
Around half of the estimated 850 Britons believed to have gone to join the extremists are already thought to be back in the UK.
Last week, Max Hill, QC, the government’s watchdog on terrorism laws, said that teenagers who had “travelled [to join Isis] out of a sense of naivety, possibly with some brainwashing along the way” might not be prosecuted.
He claimed authorities “should be looking towards reintegration and moving away from any notion that we’re going to lose a generation thanks to this travel”.
Meanwhile, government minister Rory Stewart said the only way to deal with British Islamic State fighters in Syria is to kill them “in almost every case”.
“These are people who have essentially moved away from any kind of allegiance towards the British government,” he told BBC radio.
“They are absolutely dedicated, as members of the Islamic State, towards the creation of a caliphate, they believe in an extremely hateful doctrine which involves killing themselves, killing others and trying to use violence and brutality to create an eighth century, or seventh century, state.
“So I’m afraid we have to be serious about the fact these people are a serious danger to us, and unfortunately the only way of dealing with them will be, in almost every case, to kill them.”