Arrests for terrorist-related activity give a worrying insight into the rate at which young people are being targeted and radicalised. All age groups witnessed a fall in terror-related arrests for the year ending September 2020, except for one: those under eighteen, which doubled to account for eight (and subsequently 10) per cent of all such arrests. This is the highest proportion ever seen in any annual period to date.
We also know that, all too often, the friends and relatives of those who are in danger of becoming radicalised are failing to act on their concerns.
Referrals to Prevent, which aims to ‘stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism’, saw an overall increase of 10 per cent in the year to March 2020. However, when combined, ‘friends and family’ and ‘community’ sectors accounted for just four per cent of total referrals. In fact, in the years since March 2016 when records began, referrals from ‘friends and family’ and ‘community’ sectors have never peaked above four and five per cent respectively. This is in stark contrast to referral rates from police and education (the two highest referring sectors), which in the same time period have never fallen below 31 per cent.
Why are children and young people over-represented in both Prevent referrals and arrests for terrorist-related activity? And why are friends and family and communities, who are often first to identify behaviour indicative of radicalisation, failing to speak out?
While the police and partner agencies work hard to support those who have become radicalised or are vulnerable to becoming so, they cannot combat radicalisation alone: without the help of those in the community, the efforts of the authorities will continue only to scratch the surface