Prove your science behind counter-terrorism schemes, doctors tell government

© Paul Hackett
Experts have called on the government to publish the science behind its counter-terrorism strategy, after programs such as Prevent proved inefficient and a possible waste of resources and taxpayer money.

According to a report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), thousands of Muslim men and women are being referred to counter-terrorism officials for reasons based on questionable studies.

The RCP is now demanding the Home Office publish the evidence upon which Prevent was built to prove it was based on “peer review and scientific scrutiny.”

Doctors warned the policy, which has seen almost 4,000 children referred to the ‘early stage’ extremism prevention scheme Channel, could be traumatizing. Refugees who might have escaped terrorist groups like Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) were particularly vulnerable to this.

“Those fleeing war-torn parts of the world have a high risk of psychological distress, and many are escaping terrorist violence in their country of origin,” said the RCP.

“The College is concerned there should not be a system that overly identifies them with the terrorism from which they have fled, as this could add to their trauma.”

The government has recently started requiring professionals such as teachers, social workers, and doctors who work with vulnerable people to pass on information to the police when suspecting radicalization.

But many education and health representatives, as well as Muslim leaders, have expressed their concerns with the program, arguing it scapegoats Muslim communities and does not truly impact radicalization in Britain.

A report by the National Police Chief’s Council noted that 80 percent of those referred to Channel in the first years of the policy have now left the program for more "appropriate services".

The RCP added: “The poor performance of both adult and child and adolescent tools designed to detect a propensity for terrorism may mean that individuals are unjustifiably referred to Channel.

“There is a risk of family members coming to the attention of public agencies during investigations and being inappropriately drawn into these programmes. If it is found that they have mental health problems, they should be signposted to appropriate services.”

The Government has so far refused to publish the studies on which Prevent and Channel have been based. It is known, however, that the Extremism Risk Guidance 22+ guidelines were based on tests developed by the British Prison Service to “assess the risk and needs in convicted extremist offenders.”

“Academics and community leaders have been calling for the Prevent strategy to be scrapped for years, due to its questionable method and harmful consequences,” National Union of Students vice president Shelly Asquith told RT.

“Thousands of our members have been referred and many instances have shown suspicions have been based on racial profiling and prejudice. This latest call from the Royal College of Psychiatrists is welcome, and the fact the Government continues to hide its study speaks volumes.”

In 2016 alone, there have been over 2,000 minors referred to Channel – an 83-percent increase from last year. More than 350 of them were nine years old or even younger.

“The guidance that is used was based on a peer-reviewed study, carried out to meticulous academic guidelines and published in two publicly available academic journals,” said the Home Office.

“It informed part of the process used by independent experts to assess a person’s vulnerability to being drawn into terrorism, and the support which would most benefit them to stop this happening.”