Expert View: UN concerns on children’s rights in the UK underline Prevent Abuse
Our co-author organisation, Prevent Watch, was among at least three UK based NGOs that submitted concerns about children’s rights which have featured in last month’s publication of a report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in the UK.
The Committee urged the UK to “ … assess the impact of the Prevent Strategy on children’s rights, and regularly collect and publish data, disaggregated by age, ethnicity and religious affiliation, on children referred to the authorities under the Prevent Strategy, with a view to ending the discriminatory, racial and stigmatizing impact of such measures…”
We’ve compiled a brief highlighting the relevant points raised by the UN, against what Prevent Watch has stated through case evidence, and through what was found in the People’s Review of Prevent.
Those who have read the Shawcross recommendations for Prevent will note that many of his recommendations will exacerbate the problems with Prevent and children raised in the UN report, and in some cases go against them.
A main concern for the UN Committee was that of non-discrimination (para 20) and they highlighted in particular freedom of expression and religion, stating: “The Committee is deeply concerned about the chilling effect of counter-terrorism measures on the right of children to freedom of expression, and that nearly half of referrals under the Prevent Strategy are Muslim children and children of Asian descent”.
The People’s Review of Prevent concluded that Prevent discriminates against Muslims and ethnic minority children.
The Committee urged the UK to halt “the targeting of certain groups of children in counter-terrorism measures, including through mandatory training of teachers, police and other relevant professional groups on the prohibition of discrimination and the right of children to freedom of expression and religion.”
The People’s Review of Prevent has highlighted that the Prevent training leverages the assumption that aspects of normative Islamic belief and indeed religion itself, is suspicious. This training is given to teachers and doctors and many front-line staff and under the recommendations of Shawcross is going to be expanded across more front line professionals thus perpetuating the discriminatory training.
In the reports published under the People’s Review of Prevent, we have also called – as a first measure – for Prevent to be withdrawn from schools, and in our report we said that behaviours targeted by Prevent may be dealt with through existing bullying policies, in a manner best determined by teachers and not counter-terrorism.
The Committee also urged the UK to “… assess the impact of the Prevent Strategy on children’s rights, and regularly collect and publish data, disaggregated by age, ethnicity and religious affiliation, on children referred to the authorities under the Prevent Strategy, with a view to ending the discriminatory, racial and stigmatizing impact of such measures…”
This is an important aspect which we have previously highlighted as the data published by the Home Office currently with regards to Prevent referrals lends itself to an illusory transparency; despite all the statistics published, they are not disaggregated meaningfully so that we can distinguish basic facts such as how many children as defined in law (i.e. those under the age of 18 years old) are referred to Prevent each year. We need this information to get a true picture of the issue of Prevent and children.
The UN Committee report serves as yet another major blow to the UK which has thus far ignored all of the evidence on the harms of Prevent as well as UN recommendations with regards to the harms of Prevent to children.
Meanwhile, the latest Shawcross recommendations, all of which have been accepted by the Home Secretary with no debate and amid questionable processes – does nothing to address the deep problems with Prevent in relation to children’s rights. Instead it only serves to further ratchet up the harms of Prevent on children, as we have highlighted in the People’s Review of Prevent Response to the Shawcross Review.
His recommendations go against the United Nations committee report and add further impetus to the call to the government to withdraw the Shawcross review and remove Prevent from schools.