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Home Office in the media

Home Office in the media: Friday 20 December

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Home Office in the media

Today's top stories include figures on Prevent and Channel referrals, coverage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, Border Force patrols and statistics on police use of force.

Prevent referrals

There is widespread coverage, including in the FT, Telegraph, Times, Independent, Mail, Sun and Mirror, on the Prevent and Channel statistics for 2018/19, which were published yesterday.

Much of the reporting focuses on a record number of people being referred to Prevent over suspected far-right extremism – almost doubling in three years.

The coverage notes that a total of 1,389 people were directed to the counter-radicalisation programme because of right wing concerns in the year to March 2019 - an annual rise of six per cent.

The Telegraph focuses on Islamist extremism referrals to Prevent declining, noting that this is despite a senior police officer admitting it is still the main security threat facing Britain.

The coverage notes that the number of Islamist referrals to Prevent from March 2018 to 2019 dropped by 56 per cent - from 3,197 to 1,404.

The paper adds that Chief Superintendent Nick Adams, national coordinator for Prevent, has warned the public not to be complacent, adding that the Fishmongers Hall attack “reinforces the enduring threat.”

Security Minister, Brandon Lewis, said:

We are determined to take whatever action necessary to keep people safe from all forms of terrorism. That means toughening up sentences for serious terrorists and making sure they stay in prison for longer. But it also means preventing our vulnerable young people getting drawn into terrorism in the first place, by ensuring they are offered early intervention support through Prevent and Channel.

Today’s Prevent figures show the threat from the far right continues, a problem seen across Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the US. We have already taken robust action in response including banning neo-Nazi terrorist group National Action in 2016 and there have been several successful prosecutions against its members.

These statistics show that Prevent is improving, with education, health and social care staff increasingly recognising Prevent as part of their safeguarding responsibilities. However, we must continue to work closely with communities to build resilience to the poisonous ideologies of the far right and Islamist extremism, which have no place in Britain.

Withdrawal Agreement Bill

As part of their Queen's Speech coverage, the Times, Independent and i focus on reports that legal protections for refugee children have been reduced in the tougher new Brexit bill.

The Times notes that the legislation removes a post-Brexit obligation on the Government to secure protections for refugee children in Europe who may want to reunite with family members in the UK. The clause was included in the original Withdrawal Agreement Bill after a campaign led by Lord Alf Dubs, who fled the Nazis when he was six years old.

The Independent reports that the obligation has been replaced with a requirement only to make a statement to Parliament. The paper states that Lord Dubs said it was a “retrograde step” that could leave hundreds of children with relatives in the UK stranded alone in Europe.

A Government spokesperson said:

We have a proud record of providing protection to vulnerable children, both through our asylum system and our resettlement schemes and this will not change. This is reaffirmed by the changes we have proposed.

We remain committed to the principle of family unity and ensuring that unaccompanied children claiming international protection in the EU can be reunited with family in the UK, and vice versa.

The new clause makes clear that supporting the most vulnerable children remains a priority, and does so in a way that will enhance rather than undermine our negotiating position. We are restoring the traditional division of competences between Parliament and Government when it comes to negotiations.

Border Force patrols

The Telegraph reports that British cutters should patrol the Channel in French waters and return all migrants back to France before they get anywhere near Britain, according to two former heads of the Home Office’s immigration service.

The paper states that the two former officials claim Border Force cutters bringing migrants back to Britain after they reach British waters is failing to deter the increasing numbers seeking to make the hazardous crossing.

The article notes that Border Force officials intercepted five small boats this week carrying at least 69 migrants, including ten children, off the coast of Dover. It followed 79 who made the journey in a single day just two weeks ago.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

We will not stand by while ruthless criminals put the lives of vulnerable people at risk.

Our extensive work with the French has seen patrols on French beaches doubled and equipment including drones, specialist vehicles and night vision goggles deployed to tackle these illegal crossings.

Over Christmas and new year we will continue to work with French and UK law enforcement agencies to pre-empt crossings and do everything in our power to prevent boats from leaving French shores.

Police use of Taser

The Today programme and BBC online are reporting that the use of Taser stun guns by police and England and Wales reached a record high last year, according to Home Office figures.

The BBC reports that Tasers were deployed in 23,000 incidents in the 12 months to the end of March - up by more than a third on the previous year and double the 2016 total. The coverage notes that civil liberty campaigners say Tasers can be lethal, but the police argue they are vital to ensure safety.

The BBC reports that forces have the support of the Home Office, which is providing funding to enable an extra 10,000 officers to carry them.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

Police officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect us and it is vital we give them the powers and equipment they need to fight crime and stay safe on the job.

The rise in reports of assaults on police this year has been appalling, which is why we set up a fund to allow Chief Officers to provide up to 10,000 more officers with Taser - an important tactical option for police in potentially dangerous situations.

We will also pass the Police Protection Bill and consult on doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting workers in emergency services such as police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

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