France shuts down its only de-radicalization center, says ‘experiment’ failed
France has officially shut down its only state-run radicalization prevention center in Pontourny, near the Loire Valley, intended to host up to 25 people who become radicalized and choose to enroll on a voluntary basis.
The French Interior Ministry noted in a statement on Friday that the live-in reception center in Pontourny was “experimental,” and “showed its limits.”
It was therefore decided to shut the facility down, the statement provided by AFP said, adding that “the government will study the possibility of opening [some other] small structures to develop alternative solutions to incarceration.”
The French government decided to open the center with the objective of “preparing and developing an educational program used for the reintegration of radicalized young people in the process of marginalization,”Le Parisien reported.
But since opening last September, the center has only welcomed nine volunteer residents, and none of them have completed the program, the interior ministry said, as cited by the French newspaper.
A Senate report, unveiled earlier this month, lambasted France’s deradicalization strategy, calling for the center in Pontourny to be closed, Le Parisien reported.
The center is running empty, without a single volunteer, while thirty employees are paid without having a specific mission, French lawmakers said. The experimental center has meanwhile cost a total of €2.5 million ($2.9 million). Denouncing the “financial mismanagement,” the report recommended “ending the experiment.”
Suspicions of inefficiency add to the criticism. The departure to Syria of a young woman, thought to de-radicalized after spending time at the Prevention Center against the Sectarian Derivatives related to Islam (CPDSI), founded by France’s “Madame Deradicalization,” Dounia Bouzar, and dedicated to helping young people lured by ISIS, had already illustrated the failure of the program in November 2015, Le Parisien reported.
The head of the counter-terrorism coordination unit in France, Loic Garnier, told Le Figaro in January that around 700 French citizens are currently in Syria or Iraq.