The de-radicalisation programme run by the British government is being overwhelmed as referrals to it have tripled in the last year. At the same time nearly 100 people newly-suspected of extremist links are referred to British authorities every week.
Figures just released show 2,015 cases were reported to the Channel programme up to the end of May this year, reports The Mirror. This represents a significant leap from 2014 when 1,681 reports were made for the whole year.
In 2014 the largest number of referrals came from the South East, followed by the North West, London and then the North East. So far this year the largest number are from the North West, then the North East, the East Midlands and London.
According to official government literature, Channel is a programme that provides “support at an early stage to people who are identified as being vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism.” This is meant to be done by first identifying individuals at risk, then assessing the nature and extent of that risk and thereby developing the most appropriate support plan.
Set up in 2007 to try to stop the radicalisation of British extremists such as the infamous ‘Jihadi John’ (pictured above), 6,303 people have been reported to Channel. It forms part of the government’s wider counter-terrorism Prevent strategy. Last year 577 referrals were under 18 years old and 47 of those were under ten – the youngest being a four-year-old.
“I’m not surprised. Islamic State’s propaganda and social media strategy is second to none. The programme is bursting at the seams and it is going to get worse before it gets better.
“Since July, schools and hospitals have been legally required to act on suspicions of radicalisation. So we could see numbers rise even further.
“More mentors are needed urgently.”
Despite Rafiq’s stark warning and plea for for more resources, funding for the Prevent strategy has halved since 2009. The British Minister for Security, John Hayes, said:
“As a country, we have a duty to challenge, at every turn, the twisted narrative that has corrupted some of our vulnerable young people.
“Since Channel was rolled out nationally in April 2012, there have been over 4,000 referrals and hundreds of people at risk of being drawn into violent extremism have been provided with support.
“Referrals to Channel have increased since 2014, however only a small percentage of these require specialist intervention support. We have dedicated sufficient resources to the programme to cope with demand. We will keep this position under close review.”
It is true to say that after a “robust multi-agency assessment process” not all referrals to Channel end up being mentored, fewer than one in five actually enter the programme. The National Police Chief’s Council explains:
“This is a very rare occurrence in which it was felt that channel was the best support mechanism to safeguard the child and that it was necessary to enable the family unit to benefit from the expertise and wrap around support that channel provides.”