THE CHAIR of Gwent’s programme to tackle extremism and radicalisation has said there has been an increase in referrals in the last year, but the issue is just as much a “community responsibility” as a police one.
Recent media attention has highlighted incidents of young British Muslim men and women becoming radicalised jihadists. The issues were brought home when it was revealed two Cardiff men had left to fight in Syria for the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis).
But Gwent has had a programme in place since 2011, designed to intervene and support those vulnerable to radicalisation.
‘Prevent’ is a multi-agency group to raise awareness of the behaviours that may lead to violent extremism and the support that can be offered to anybody who may be vulnerable to it.
As of this year, Superintendent Marc Budden chairs the Gwent Prevent strategy board. Over the years, more partners have become involved making it less police led.
Supt Budden said: “We don’t see it as a police issue. It’s a community responsibility.
“We provide information to other organisations on what they can look out for. They may refer people to us and we then provide support.”
Supt Budden explained this could involve bringing in elders from the Muslim community to talk to those concerned.
He said: “We’ve seen a slight increase in the referrals we’re getting since last year.”
Supt Budden said not all are in response to Syria and the majority of those concerned were people in their late teens or early twenties.
“We are not looking to criminalise people. We see them as vulnerable individuals. They may just have been misguided or have too much time on their hands and have seen something on the internet and be led astray.”
Supt Budden said they have had a positive outcome with every person they have been able to identify and work with. He assured this was not a “big brother” exercise.
He said: “The Imams from the Newport mosques are absolutely on board with us. Tackling radicalistion and extremism has to be the responsibility of everyone in our community.”
Police and other agencies do not have powers to prevent people travelling abroad, to Syria or elsewhere, unless there are grounds to make an arrest.
Agencies involved in the ‘Prevent’ work include all five Gwent councils, Coleg Gwent, University of South Wales, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Welsh Government, UK Borders and Immigration Wales Probation and Aneurin Bevan Health Board.
Gwent Police stressed the work in Gwent is not only looking at members of the Muslim faith, although with the escalating situation in the middle East, combating radicalisation of young Muslim men is the “most pressing challenge”.
If anyone has concerns about someone who is planning to travel abroad to become involved in violence they can contact Gwent Police on 101 (non-emergency) or confidentially on the Anti-Terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321.