The Prevent strategy is one strand of the UK counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST. Prevent was introduced in 2003 by the New Labour government of Tony Blair. Following the attacks in London on 7th July 2005, the importance of the Prevent strategy increased as the government sought to deal with a risk of ‘home-grown’ terrorism.
It was reviewed by the Coalition government in 2011 in order to separate direct counter-terrorism activities from integration work with communities. Integration work would no longer be part of Prevent, according to then Home Secretary Theresa May.
In 2015 the Counter Terrorism and Security Act imposed a ‘Prevent duty’ on public sector employees to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’’. This placed a legal obligation on teachers, doctors, nurses and 2 million public servants to become part of the security apparatus.
Many people, organisations and bodies have spoken out against Prevent, below are just a few examples:
The Joint Committee on Human Rights has called for an independent review of Prevent in its report on the new Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill to which Prevent Watch also submitted evidence.
National Union of Teachers have called for Prevent strategy to be scrapped citing the impact Prevent has had on free and open debates in schools, impact on teacher-student relationships and causing Muslim students to fear expressing their opinions and openly practicing their religion.
The British Medical Association agreed a motion to support any members who refuse to take part in the Prevent training scheme. Doctors said the obligations on them were “Orwellian” “Kafka-esque” and “like a scene from Minority Report” – claiming the measures were creating “a climate of fear and mistrust”. Read More >>
Predicting very rare events is extremely difficult. No tools have been developed that can reliably identify people who have been radicalised, who are at risk of radicalisation or who are likely to carry out a terrorist act. Assessment of risk is therefore best done on a case-by-case basis, as part of professional safeguarding practices. Read More >>
Following a country visit to the UK in 2016, Maina Kiai, former UN special rapporteur on freedom of assembly, has stated that “by dividing, stigmatizing and alienating segments of population, Prevent could end up promoting extremism, rather than countering it’’.
UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance noted that PREVENT was “inherently flawed”, “vague” and lacked any supportive evidence demonstrating its success while the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Privacy stated that representatives of British Muslims reported that PREVENT is “dividing, stigmatising and alienating communities” recommending that “sufficient resources to be allocated by the UK Government to reinforce the evidence-base as to the previse impact of PREVENT and similar measures on privacy and other fundamental rights”.
In a public statement, the groups of mosques that represents up to 70,000 Muslims, has vowed to boycott the government’s anti-terrorism Prevent programme after accusing the policy of being a racist attack on the Islamic community. Read More >>
360 leading Professors, Academics, professionals in Terrorism and community leaders call for an end on Prevent including: Karen Armstrong, Professor Marc Sageman, Professor Noam Chomsky (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Professor Humayun Ansari (Royal Holloway, University of London), Professor David Miller (University of Bath) and many more. Read the statement here.
The Government has largely ignored the mounting evidence and increasing calls for an independent review of Prevent. If Prevent remains, it will continue to cause more alienation and harm and must therefore be reviewed and ultimately scrapped.
Prevent criticism is consistently dismissed by Prevent leads and practitioners as ‘myths’, even with a number of cases showing that the policy is flawed and Islamophobic. Two cases they often highlight are ‘Terrorist House‘ case and ‘Cucumber‘ case – both are detailed on our website and we recommend you read and judge for yourself. These cases are the result of the environment created by Prevent and counter-terrorism policies under which Muslim children, and community at large, are viewed through a securitized lens.
Prevent Watch has documented over 400 cases of individuals impacted by Prevent, with the youngest cases being 3 years old.
Prevent is described as being voluntary yet evidence shows that coercive tactics are being used in implementing Prevent.
Individuals are often not informed that engagement with Prevent is voluntary and feel that they have no choice but to engage with Prevent.
Simon Cole has said that Prevent is ‘voluntary’ but if individuals do not cooperate with Prevent, this will make the police suspicious and they may initiate the Pursue strand of Contest (UK’s counter terrorism strategy). This is how we are in fact seeing Prevent being implemented on the ground and it renders obsolete the alleged ‘voluntary’ nature of Prevent.
Prevent is falsely being masked around the language of ‘safeguarding’:
Recent research has shown that Prevent in fact is not safeguarding at all. Safeguarding experts, doctors and social workers among others have criticised the Prevent duty stating it is not their role to do the police’s work and act as counter-terrorism operatives. Similarly, the 2-hour Prevent (WRAP) training has been criticised as being inadequate and flawed.
During the ‘safeguarding’ assessments, families are viewed through a securitised lens. The Local Authority becomes involved in families due to alleged ‘radicalisation’ concerns, often based on information from the Police, but evidence shows families have subsequently been assessed by their religiosity and upon Islamophobic judgments rather than any genuine concerns over children’s welfare.
Prevent is not safeguarding but an abuse of existing safeguarding policies and children’s welfare. Instead, existing safeguarding policies are adequate to deal with any genuine safeguarding concerns.
“By dividing, stigmatizing and alienating segments of population, Prevent could end up promoting extremism, rather than countering it” United Nations
The Prevent duty has created a further securitized state in which public sector workers are trained to spots signs of ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’ and to refer people to Prevent.
Prevent is a failed and counter-productive policy based on flawed science which was never meant to be used on such a wide scale. Over 140 experts signed an open letter criticising the science from which the “risk factors” used in Prevent derive. Prevent is based on a flawed understanding of ‘radicalisation’ and is focused on ideology rather than other factors, such as domestic and foreign policy grievances, which research, including statements by former Deputy Director General of MI5, shows play a greater role in politically motivated violence but which the Government continues to ignore.
As a result, there have been serious human rights and civil liberties concerns raised about Prevent, which statistics show has predominantly been used to target Muslims and silence dissent impacting thousands each year. Prevent has caused irreversible damage from schools to healthcare. Prevent has had a toxic effect across the board as parents and children have lost confidence and trust in authorities, while university students are now self-censoring as a result of Prevent’s chilling effect.
The statistics (2016) demonstrate that the majority, over 65%, of the referrals were Muslims, including nearly 2,000 Muslim children. There is clearly a disproportionate focus on Muslims for which there has been no accountability.
A significant portion of the Prevent funding has gone to Muslim majority areas also referred to as ‘priority areas’.
- Over 7,631 people were referred to Prevent in 2015-16
- 95% of the referrals did not require any intervention and were therefore false referrals
- Over 65% of the referrals were Muslims
- Over 1,500 of the 65% referrals were Muslim children under the age of 15, majority of whom did not require Channel intervention
The statistics clearly demonstrate both the failures of the policy and the disproportionate focus on Muslims, children in particular.
The Government statistics do not record Prevent referrals that are rejected by authorities. This is where families are referred to Prevent, accused of involvement with Terrorism, but then rejected very early in the process. These are not recorded in the statistics but the family is left traumatised.