Parents concerned that their 16 and 17 year old children are at risk of travelling abroad under the influence of extremists will be able to apply to have their passports removed, the Prime Minister has announced as he launches the government’s new Counter-Extremism Strategy. He has also announced that anyone with a conviction for terrorist offences or extremist activity will be automatically banned from working with children and vulnerable people.
The new strategy follows the 4 key pillars set out by the PM in his speech in Birmingham in July:
- It will vigorously counter extremist ideology – making sure every part of government is stepping up to the plate.
- It will actively support mainstream voices, especially in our faith communities and in civil society. That means supporting all those who want to fight extremism, but are too often disempowered or drowned out in the debate.
- It will disrupt extremists, aggressively pursuing the key radicalisers who do so much damage.
- And it will seek to build more cohesive communities, tackling the segregation and feelings of alienation that can help provide fertile ground for extremist messages to take root.
Over the past year there have been a number of cases of young Britons travelling to join ISIL in Syria and Iraq, as well as the prosecution of the UK’s youngest terrorist, a 15 year old boy convicted of inciting another person to commit an act of terrorism overseas. According to latest police figures, there were 338 counter-terrorism related arrests: 157 were linked to Syria and 56 are under 20 years old, which is a growing trend. The new power being announced today extends a measure introduced by the Prime Minister in July, following a successful trial, which enables parents to apply directly to HM Passport Office to have the passports of children under 16 years old cancelled to prevent them travelling to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. Several under-16s have since been protected. It also comes after a series of successful court order applications by local authorities to protect children at risk of travelling, either by their own choice or as part of a family unit.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
I have said before that defeating Islamist extremism will be the struggle of our generation. It is one of the biggest social problems we need to overcome.
We know that extremism is really a symptom; ideology is the root cause – but the stakes are rising and that demands a new approach. So we have a choice – do we choose to turn a blind eye or do we choose to get out there and make the case for our British values.
The government’s new Counter-Extremism Strategy is a clear signal of the choice we have made to take on this poisonous ideology with resolve, determination and the goal of a building a greater Britain. And a key part of this new approach is going further to protect children and vulnerable people from the risk of radicalisation by empowering parents and public institutions with all the advice, tools and practical support they need.
The strategy also strengthens the role of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to ensure anyone with a conviction or civil order for terrorist or extremist activity is automatically banned from working with children and vulnerable people, in the same way as individuals convicted of sexual offences against children. Around 5,000 children were in institutions affected by the Trojan Horse plot, where extremists gained control of several schools in Birmingham. Separate barred lists are maintained for work with children and work with adults.