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Camden’s counter-extremism team sees rise in far right cases

Top council official: 'Two years ago our worry was people travelling to Syria. Now we are worried about far-right extremism and we are worried about returnees from Syria'

21 April, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Former mayor Roger Robinson revealed his suspicions about secret meetings by extremists

FAR-right activists are secretly meeting in pubs under the pretence of having everyday social drinking sessions, the Town Hall has been told.

The alert came as Camden Council said its counter-extremism teams were now seeing a similar number of cases flagged up in relation to far-right activity, as referrals linked to possible radicalisation by groups like Isis. Lampposts have at times been stickered with racist messages, a council meeting was told, and it was suggested that some extremists considered it “open season” to intimidate refugees and minority communities.

Former mayor, Labour Councillor Roger Robinson, told the cross-party culture and environment scrutiny committee: “We must not ignore the hate and what is going on because I know for a fact that there are organisations that are extremely right wing and are meeting in different parts of the world, different parts of Camden, different parts of London, in what are supposed to be a normal drinking sessions – but in fact are not. This is something we should be looking at and discussing.”

The committee are a panel of backbenchers who are tasked with analysing council policy. Senior council official Jessica Gibbons, Camden’s director of resident services, said the Prevent programme – a nationwide strategy which attempts to identify individuals who are at risk of being radicalised – was now picking up different kind of cases. She said that in Camden, there was an increase in the number of referrals from the far-right.

And in the Prevent programme referrals from the far-right were at a similar level to those from Isis and Daesh.

She added: “In the terms of the Prevent programme we have had a number of cases, where we are looking at safeguarding individuals from radicalisation from the far-right side. So absolutely it is an issue and we are absolutely looking hard to counter that, both through Prevent work but also through our work through community cohesion.”

Labour councillor Abdul Hai: It’s almost becoming quite fashionable to be anti-immigration, anti-refugee

Ms Gibbons added: “The landscape of radicalisation is changing. Two years ago our worry was people travelling to Syria. Now we are worried about far-right extremism and we are worried about returnees from Syria.”

The New Journal reported last month how Camden’s own officers believed the number of people who left the borough for the warzone in Syria may have been more than recorded.  Nobody who travelled has returned to Camden, although a protocol is in place in case any attempts are made.

“Constantly that landscape is changing, so constantly we are needing to ensure that our teachers, our Prevent leads in schools are up to date with the latest information and thinking about the latest risks around safeguarding children,” said Ms Gibbons.

The council, as a whole, passed a motion condemning Islamophobia last week in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks and amid anecdotal speeches about abuse Muslim women in Camden were said to face on daily basis.

Camden saw a spike in hate crime after the Brexit referendum in June 2016 but levels returned to “normal” soon afterwards. Cabinet councillor Abdul Hai said: “The language we hear now is almost unthinkable. It’s almost open season. It’s almost becoming quite fashionable to be anti-immigration, anti-refugee. That’s why I think it’s an important that our programmes are there to challenge all forms of extremism, including far-right, which I’m afraid is on the rise.”


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