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    Former gang member Tayo Shodunke attends a mentoring session at St Paul's church in east London, on August 17, 2011.

    'Deradicalization Works', UK Counter Extremist Specialist Tells Sputnik

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    More than 6,000 people were thought to be at risk from radicalization in Britain between 2016 and 2017. A total of 6093 people were referred to the UK government's deradicalization Prevent program over concerns they were vulnerable to extremist propaganda.

    The UK government's next phase, the Channel panel, received 1146 referrals. However Hanif Qadir, author of 'Preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorist recruitment: a best practice guide', told Sputnik the British government's Prevent and Chanel program isn't fit for tackling the threat posed from individuals viewed as "high level risk" from exposure to extremism and terrorism.

    "The British government doesn't want to tackle medium to high level risk people",Qadir said. "It's become so politicized the government can't be seen to be offering potential terrorists its support."

    READ MORE: UK Anti-Terror 'Prevent' Strategy Under Scrutiny

    Qadir a former foreign fighter with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, witnessed crimes extremists committed against people but returned to the UK and decided to help prevent other young men and women from turning towards a life of violent extremism.

    Qadir created the Active Change Foundation, a community non-profit organization for vulnerable young people, including those at threat from radicalization, which can, according to Qadir be countered. 

    "Deradicalization works, I've done it. But it's down to the will of the authorities, governments, institutions and law enforcement agencies whether it continues to work", Qadir said.

    The British government introduced the Prevent program following the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005. "In 2007 and 2008, there was an increased appetite from institutions to persuade and prevent individuals from becoming terrorists, this allowed people like me to offer an organically grown intervention service for high risk individuals", Qadir said.

    The Prevent program was revised in 2011, making it a legal requirement for public sector employees, for example teachers and nurses, to disclose a concern if they think an individual is being drawn into terrorism and prevent them.

    READ MORE: UK Anti-Terror 'Prevent' Strategy Under Scrutiny

    In January 2015, former head of Britain's security services MI5 told the House of Lords that Prevent is "clearly not working". Baroness Manningham Buller said that the decision made by more than 600 Britons to travel to Syria and Iraq to join Deash was evidence enough that the Prevent scheme had failed.

    The UKs independent reviewer of terrorism legislation says the Prevent counter-terrorism scheme is "not transparent". In March 2016, David Anderson QC suggested it should be independently reviewed.

    'Cottage Industry'

    "The British government's terrorism prevention program has become a cottage industry," Qadir told Sputnik. "If it is based on ten sessions over six weeks, that's just two hours a week, so each week I'm going back to square one with the individual", he explains.

    "It's time restricted so you may have an hour but then you walk away. The intervention officers say we'll catch up in a few weeks and look at their watch," Qadir said. 

    According to recent figures published by the UK's Home Office, the Chanel panel provided support for 332 people; 292 subsequently left the process; 231 people no longer raised concerns; the remaining 61 people who remain at risk of radicalization are managed by police, 40 people are still receiving Channel support.

    The majority of concerns centered on Islamist extremism, although 271 people were referred for extreme right wing related concerns.

    Security Minister Ben Wallace said in a statement: "The Prevent program is fundamentally about protecting people who are vulnerable to all forms of radicalization and has stopped hundreds of individuals being drawn towards terrorism and violence."

    "The figures released show that the programme is continuously improving, demonstrated by better referrals being made and the fact that we are tackling the threat from the far right," Wallace said. 

    READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE Muslim Ex-Detainee on Extremism & 'Dog-Eat-Dog' World of UK Prisons

    However deradicalization expert Hanif Qadir remains unconvinced the British government is tackling extremism head on. "The prison system is overwhelmed and it's a well-known fact they act as fertile grounds for radicalization and extremism — and these prisoners will be let out at some point, what then?" 

    "All these people are known to the authorities — but they won't intervene with those deemed high risk, the risk aversion is so high it makes it almost difficult to deradicalize somebody," Qadir told Sputnik.

    "What is concerning is the increase in radicalization and the lack of support will mean in the not so distant future, we're going to have an existing and increasing threat that will bite us on the backside," he said. 

    READ MORE: From Twitter to Syria, UK's Anti-Extremism Prevent Program Still Not Working

    The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik. 


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