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7 Nov, 2014 12:44

Immigration hinders anti-terror efforts – UK police chief

Immigration hinders anti-terror efforts – UK police chief

The influx of immigrants to the UK, with different languages and their own communities, are an obstacle for British police combating terrorism, the country’s most senior police chief said.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said officers working in local communities aiming to combat radicalization often found it “more difficult to integrate with new populations.”

This especially applies to multicultural London, where a disproportionately high number of migrants from overseas arrive each year.

“People arrive with different languages, people arrive having different perceptions of police officers,” said Hogan-Howe, speaking after a counter-terrorism conference at the NYPD headquarters in New York on Thursday.

“We’ve all seen growth, but not at a pace that we’ve seen more recently,” he said. “So it’s just a simple logistical point that the more people that arrive, the more quickly they arrive, all our bureaucracies struggle to cope with that, and the police are no different.”

Reuters / Neil Hall

His remarks come as immigration increasingly tops the political debate, amplified further by the rising popularity of the anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to limit the migration of foreign nationals to UK.

Hogan-Howe also said the potential return of any of the 500 Britons believed to have gone abroad to fight in Syria and Iraq was “a risk to our communities that we need to protect against.”

Immigration alone isn’t the only obstacle for officers’ efforts in combating terror, he argued. He stressed that the internet and other communications platforms must not become a safe haven for criminality.

“We cannot allow parts of the internet – or any communications platform – to become dark and ungoverned space where images of child abuse are exchanged, murders are planned, and terrorist plots are progressed.

“In a democracy we cannot accept any space – virtual or not – to become anarchic where crime can be committed without fear.

“Yet this is in danger of happening.”

National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland (Reuters)

Hogan-Howe addressed the increase in online security and encryption that followed disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden about surveillance by spy agencies.

He added that the levels of encryption and protection in the devices and methods used to communicate are “frustrating the efforts of police and intelligence agencies to keep people safe.”

READ MORE:Obama snubs MI5, sends CIA to investigate threat of radical Islam in UK

Earlier this week, Robert Hannigan, the new director of Britain’s surveillance agency, GCHQ, accused US technology companies of becoming “the command and control networks of choice” for terrorists.

Bill Bratton, the commissioner of the New York police department, spoke alongside his UK-counterpart. He warned of lone wolf attacks on US soil and said Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ ISIL) are using “increasingly sophisticated recruiting efforts” such as social media and websites “to actively recruit and successively recruit” jihadists.