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UK’s anti-terror programme a failure?

London: Concerns have been raised over the success of the UK’s anti-terror programme designed to expose radicalisation inside the British Muslim community as less than a tenth of extremism tip-offs were coming directly from the community.

According to figures obtained by The Times newspaper, there were fewer than 300 community tip-offs in six months and a vast majority of referrals to the scheme are instead being made by the police or public bodies such as schools and the National Health Service (NHS).

UK government’s “Prevent” programme, part of the counter-terrorism strategy set up after the September 11 attacks, assesses people deemed to be at risk of radicalisation and diverts them into support programmes.

As part of the scheme community members are being encouraged to report activity or conversations they feel may indicate extremist or radical tendencies. Figures from the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) show that of the 3,288 referrals to the programme in the first half of the year, only 280 or 8.6 per cent came from the community, family, friends and faith leaders.

Another 2,180 referrals were from public bodies outside policing, such as schools, social services and the health sector. The remainder came from the police and within prisons. The NPCC said that some community tip-offs might be made directly to the police, and these were not included in the Prevent statistics.

Britain’s terrorism threat level is set at “severe”, which means that an attack is “highly likely”. This year the government introduced a statutory Prevent duty for schools, prisons, NHS trusts and other areas of the public sector, requiring workers to report concerns about radicalisation and have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.

There have been some concerns that the Prevent programme may be alienating Muslims in particular. Simon Cole, the NPCC spokesperson for Prevent said: “At a time when the threat level is severe, it is encouraging that the police are highly trusted as an agency for reporting concerns about radicalisation.

“The figures may not accurately capture the nature of the original source because in many cases members of the community will report in the first instance to the police.” Separate figures reveal record referrals to the Channel scheme, the strand of Prevent that handles the most serious de-radicalisation cases. In the year to the end of October, 1,355 people under 18 were referred to Channel, compared with 466 the previous year.