21 October, 2010
TEACHERS, social workers and housing officials are being actively encouraged to report people they believe are “at risk” of violent extremism.
The Town Hall has allocated £20,000 of its £309,000 Government counter terrorism grant on encouraging council staff to identify anyone “radicalised by ideologies”.
The controversial “Channel Programme” surveillance scheme has been criticised by MPs during a House of Commons inquiry in March for targeting and profiling young Muslims.
The council said it was stamping out early-warning signs of Al Quaeda in Camden – but also “far right, animal rights and environmental extremism”.
Details of the accused are investigated by a panel of council officials, social services and counter-terrorism police with a personal file stored on a secret database.
Speaking from New York to the New Journal, Arun Kundnani – who wrote a book about the Channel Programme for the Institute of Race Relations – said: “The Channel Programme seeks to enlist teachers, youth workers and other professionals into the surveillance and profiling of young Muslims on the basis of their religious and political opinions, rather than because of involvement in any crime.
“Not only does this programme erode the norms of confidentiality and relationships of trust that these professionals have with young people but it also undermines the right to democratically express radical views. We are better off without it.”
Potential extremists targeted under Channel are referred to counselling or other support services in Camden.
In 2007/08, there were 27 arrests under the Terrorism Act in Camden – no one was charged.
Yesterday (Wednesday), a council spokeswoman said: “Councils are required by national Government to have a Channel Panel in place. We’re waiting to see whether this policy will remain since the change of administration.
“Channel Panels use a ‘safeguarding’ approach, similar to that used for at-risk children and adults, to identify people who may be vulnerable to extremist behaviour. They aim to keep both individuals and the community safe from a range of extremist influences.”