A three-year-old child is among hundreds of young Londoners who have been identified as potential future extremists or at risk of radicalisation.
The disturbing tally, revealed today by the Evening Standard, is contained in new statistics which paint the most detailed picture so far of the scale of the security challenge facing police and intelligence agencies in the capital.
They show that a total of 1,069 Londoners have been referred to the government’s “Channel” counter-extremism programme since the start of 2012.
That means that the capital accounts for about a quarter of the 4,000 referrals to the programme nationwide since then. The Standard, which obtained the figures from the London Assembly, can also reveal that:
Since September last year, 400 Channel referrals were made for teenagers and children under 18.
450 Londoners, including 300 under-18s, are part of the Met’s “Prevent Case Management” process, linked to Channel.
The three-year-old is from Tower Hamlets and was referred as “part of a wider family group” that had been displaying alarming behaviour.
Experts warned that the spike in young people being identified will continue and is being fuelled by an explosion of online Islamic State propaganda and the sight of British fighters taking part in the conflict in Syria.
A new statutory duty on public bodies, such as schools, hospitals and councils, to prevent people being drawn into extremism is also thought to have contributed to the surge in referrals.
Scotland Yard today welcomed the figures, saying it shows Londoners “understand the dangers of extremism and the need to speak out”. But MPs and campaigners called for more resources to face the surge.
London Assembly member Murad Qureshi, who obtained the figures from Mayor Boris Johnson, said the capital’s fight against extremism should be led by schools in a community, rather than police-led, approach.
He said: “The figures certainly show the extent of it and this now needs to move into the educational arena.
“It’s useful for the Met to be on top of the issue. But we need to see a community approach, with schools and education at the forefront of that.
“Simple history lessons about Islamic states which have failed in the past could be useful, as opposed to some of the propaganda from other sources.”
Hannah Stuart, a researcher on extremism from the Henry Jackson Society think tank, said: “These figures confirm the fact that London is, and has always been, the centre of Islamist inspired terrorism, radicalisation and extremism in this country. That pattern will remain.”
Channel involves social workers, police, medical staff and others working with adults and young people who are judged to be either vulnerable to or engaged in extremism.
The aim is to divert them away from potential violence through early intervention as part of the Government’s wider “Prevent” programme.
Commander Richard Walton, the head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “The earlier we can intervene to prevent radicalisation the better.
“It is good that we are receiving more referrals as it shows that the people of London understand the dangers of extremism and the need to speak out. Everyone can play a part in keeping London safe.”
Security minister John Hayes added: “As a country, we have a duty to challenge, at every turn, the twisted narrative that has corrupted some of our vulnerable young people.
“Referrals to Channel have increased since 2014 but we have dedicated sufficient resources to the programme to cope with demand. We will keep this position under close review.”
Although most counter-extremism schemes focus on older children and adults, primary or nursery age youngsters can also be referred under the Prevent scheme because of concerns about the conduct of their families. Police have used the family courts 30 times to bring care proceedings to protect young children. Measures include removing the children’s passports.
London has several “priority” boroughs which receive extra government funding for providing such counter-extremism programmes.
A planned initiative is set to see them “buddy-up” with non-priority ones to share information.
But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper claimed that support had been cut too far. She said: “The Government has substantially cut support for community-led action to counter extremists’ lies. The police can’t do this alone. Countering extremism is much more effective if it involves local community groups.
“We know young people are particularly at risk of radicalisation, yet the Channel programme is not sufficiently resourced or prepared to manage the referrals being made.”
Haras Rafiq, managing director of counter-extremism think tank Quilliam, said: “Generally, across London, Channel alone is already bursting at the seams. It is a particular London problem when we know that about half the people who have gone to Iraq and Syria are from London and there are parts of London where this ideology needs to be challenged.”
The programme’s effectiveness came under fire last week as it emerged Britain’s youngest terrorist, a 15-year-old schoolboy who admitted inciting Australian teenagers to carry out a beheading, was placed on Channel two years ago. He was the second convicted terrorist this year in which counter-extremism programmes failed.
Nearly half of the 4,000 Channel referrals across the country relate to under-18s and referrals had increased 58 per cent at the beginning of this year.
Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.standard.co.uk