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Latest PREVENT figures show Muslims continue to be disproportionately impacted

Latest PREVENT figures show Muslims continue to be disproportionately impacted

Categories: Latest News

Monday November 13 2017

The Government’s latest figures on the controversial Prevent and Channel policies have been released, indicating that the expansion of the policies are continuing to have a disproportionate impact on Muslims.

A total of 7,631 people were subject to a Prevent referral in 2015-16, with less than 1 in 20 of these being deemed to require Channel support.

The statistics published by the Home Office show that where the type of concern is known, over three-quarters of people referred to Prevent were referred for reasons related to ‘Islamist extremism’. This disproportionate impact on Muslim communities is highlighted by the fact that less than 5% of the total UK population is Muslim.

Around a third of Prevent referrals in 2015-16 were made by education authorities, with 31% being made by police forces. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has been vociferous in its opposition to the Prevent programme, passing a motion in April 2016 to reject the strategy and stating that it causes “suspicion in the classroom and confusion in the staffroom”.

Concerningly, over 30% of all those referred to Prevent were aged under 15 (where age is known), with this figure rising to more than half for referrals made by the education sector. Amongst police and healthcare authorities the highest proportion of referrals were aged between 21 and 30.

The focus on ‘Islamist extremism’ occurs overwhelmingly at each stage of the Prevent and Channel process. 4,997 Prevent referrals involved concerns around ‘Islamist extremism’, making up 77% of cases where the type of concern was specified.

14% (1,072) of all Prevent referrals were deemed vulnerable enough to have their cases discussed at local Channel panels, which are made up of representatives from the local authority, education, health and police services. 819, or 76% of all cases discussed at a Channel panel related to Islamist extremism.

381 individuals who were discussed at Channel panels required Channel support, meaning that only 5% of those initially referred to Prevent were judged as being vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. 69% of those requiring Channel support were judged to be at risk of ‘Islamist extremism’, continuing a trend which has disproportionately focused on Muslims since before the Prevent programme was enacted as a statutory duty upon public bodies in 2015.

Figures show that between April 2012 and March 2016, 681 out of 992 people to have received Channel support were deemed to be at risk of ‘Islamist extremism’. This makes up 68% of those to have received assistance, in stark contrast to the 4.8% of England and Wales that identified as Muslim at the 2011 Census.

Concern about the unfair targeting of Muslims by Prevent is magnified given that the Prevent duty is not applicable in Northern Ireland, despite MI5 rating Northern Ireland-related terrorism the same threat level as international terrorism.

While the Prevent duty places a requirement upon public authorities to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”, it is less widely known that the Channel programme which seeks to amend people’s outlook is actually voluntary. Therefore it is telling that of the 365 people who left the Channel process in 2015/16, 63 individuals did so voluntarily.

Prevent has been strongly criticised by various politicians, academics and organisations. Earlier this year, Manchester mayor Andy Burnham stated that Prevent had “lost community buy-in” and pledged to replace the programme as part of a “distinctive” approach in Greater Manchester.

Simon Cole, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) lead on Prevent welcomed the figures, saying that each referral was “someone trying to guide a person they had concerns about away from harm and towards the help they may have needed”.

Director of the human rights group Liberty, Martha Spurrier, highlighted how the government was still failing to provide transparency about the impact of Prevent. She stated that that the statistics “show a sharp rise in the number of people referred, with children disturbingly overrepresented – and large numbers of cases where no further action is taken, with no analysis of the potentially devastating and stigmatising effects on those incorrectly referred.”

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