Nazir Afzal, talks to the BBC about Child Sex Exploitation and why we need to do more.
Nazir Afzal, talks to the BBC about Child Sex Exploitation and why we need to do more.
An Open Reply to CAGE
Dear Mr Qureshi
I thank you for your open letter published today and, whilst I do not have the resources of your organisation, nor anymore the resources of Government, I thought I would offer something of a reply
I have consistently argued that the Prevent programme has many shortcomings, not the least of which have been poor communication, transparency and community engagement, but I have also seen, first hand, the work of dozens of grassroots organisations funded by Prevent which continue to protect vulnerable people from those who would wish them and others harm. It is safeguarding, no more and no less.
There are many myths peddled about Prevent which do you and others a disservice. At the recent Society of Asian Lawyers Event at which I spoke, I was pleased to finally see Prevent Watch accept that the “terrorist house” example that they include on the front page of their site did not involve Prevent despite having said so on every possible occasion. Cage regularly suggest, for example, that the “conveyor belt model” (ie the more conservative someone becomes, the more at risk they are) is used by Prevent when I have seen no evidence of it. On the contrary, I said as much on BBC Question Time on 25th May 2017 and also articulated how dangerous it was to even consider focussing on that given many recruits to Daeesh had the most basic understanding of Islam.
You mention the proportion of referrals as being indicative of discrimination. The most recent figures I have seen show a third of referrals to Channel are far right. I would suggest that this deliberately misunderstands what safeguarding is. Prevent, like any safeguarding tool, has to be directed at what current threats and risks are.
I don’t have any current special knowledge about Hindu, Sikh, Methodist, Jewish, or Buddhist, Athiest or Agnostic threats of violent extremism we face in the UK, but last time I did, it was negligible. There is a real threat from violent extremism in relation to Northern Ireland and from the Far Right, but the largest risk attaches to so called Islamist Extremism. I am sure that the Government could be more transparent and tell us more, but I have seen the evidence. In that regard, why is anyone surprised that most referrals are Muslims? Of course, in Wales, Northern Ireland and North-East England, referrals of Muslims are the minority.
Wearing my former National hat safeguarding those at risk of sexual abuse, more than 80% of referrals were girls because that’s where the greatest risk is. That’s not being discriminatory, that’s just a fact. I don’t see women and girls complaining that they are 4 times as likely to be referred for support.
Daeesh use sophisticated grooming techniques on our children and young, early intervention is the answer in ALL safeguarding. Again, I would urge the Government to show people what happens during the Channel programme – it’s just mentoring, coaching and support.
The State got off to a decent start in the first couple of years of Prevent after 7/7. Then we had poor judgment that led to CCTV being installed without any engagement in certain parts of Birmingham. Thankfully exposed and removed. I can see why people then began to talk about Prevent being surveillance. However, after those ill-judged adventures, the programme has greater clarity (page 6 of the 2011 strategy) forbids its use for intelligence gathering. I was present when the Home Secretary mentioned how Prevent could provide intelligence but BBC Question Time did not afford me or her to explain.
Let me give you the only example in which this may happen;
Imagine if you will, a neighbourhood where there are a spate of distraction type burglaries of elderly people in one particular month. Each reported separately would not suggest that this was one gang working together unless it went from the local PCSO to the regional CID who looked at the bigger picture. In exactly the same way, if you have a number of Prevent referrals in the same neighbourhood in a short period of time of people of similar vulnerabilities. It would be right, would it not, to investigate whether there was one recruiter or team of recruiters at work. That is the ONLY circumstance in which it would appropriate to investigate further.
CRITICS I could mention the supporters that include the Association of Teachers and Lecturers or even the Association of Muslim Schools. I could add my name to both your list of critics and those who support Prevent. Not because I am conflicted but because life is more nuanced that you would suggest. The UN Rapporteur based her findings a year ago on 17 examples of poorly handled cases. You know what, if I wanted, I could base my study entirely on hundreds of well-handled cases.
I saw published yesterday a report prepared independently on Schools and Colleges by academics at Coventry, Huddersfield and Durham Universities which found that the Prevent duty had led to MORE open discussions around extremism, intolerance and inequality. It found relatively little evidence of the “chilling effect” often referred to.
On the Extremism Risk Guidance (ERG) and Channel Vulnerability Assessment Framework (VAF) I will defer entirely to the academics and I see that they are yet to agree. However, I know for a fact that the ERG is NOT used to predict whether someone will engage in extremist offending. It can only help to make a decision on what support should be made available. Training remains “work in progress.”
I base all my judgments on evidence, not assumptions or anecdotes. I can’t say that I know all there is to know but I am doing my best to find out. I am receiving no support – financial or otherwise – from the State, the Government or any other person. You will know I resigned my most recent role as Chief Executive of the country’s Police & Crime Commissioners (with no prospect of another job to go to) so that I could speak up on a myriad of community safety issues which I was prohibited from speaking about. Why? Because I care deeply about my fellow citizens, particularly those who are most vulnerable. I have seen the good that Prevent can do – warts and all – and all of us should be committed to protecting our children from ALL the threats they face.
I wish you well in your endeavours
One in four people from BAME communities who struggle with their mental health keep it to themselves because they don’t know anyone that would understand.
Of the people we surveyed from BAME communities who said they struggled with their mental health:
• 1 in 4 (24%) keep it to themselves because they don’t know anyone that would understand
• 1 in 2 (50%) don’t speak about it because they wouldn’t want to burden someone with their problems
• In comparison, 84% said that they feel good about themselves when they are there for people they care about
Research out today from the mental health charity Mind¹ has found that one in four Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) people who have struggled with their mental health keep it to themselves because they don’t know anyone that would understand (24%).
One such example of peer support in action is Halo’s Big Sisters Project. Halo works with and supports victims of honour based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, who have suffered psychological and emotional abuse, which has left a profound effect on their mental health and physical well-being. ‘The Big Sisters Project’ run regular coffee mornings which are extremely therapeutic for the women. The sessions provide a comfortable and safe environment to talk to others that understand and share their experiences. The support from peers has given the women the confidence and opened opportunities to access other groups and activities in the area which have helped them feel part of the community.
Yasmin Khan, Director of Halo, commented, “The Big Sisters Project has demonstrated effective community engagement in a trusted community project, which has broken down barriers and achieved a greater understanding of MIND services which are available. This demonstrates the value of specialist providers reaching out to minority groups, especially to those who are extremely vulnerable, such as victims of cultural, harmful practices”.
More than 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) or cutting. The practice has now been outlawed in some African countries, but not in Sierra Leone, where some cutters are still proud of their profession.
Two 19-year-old girls have been found hanged after they were forced to marry against their will in India.
Police discovered Asha Shrikant Burud and Swati Umesh Zanjare hanging from a tree in a jungle and instantly described their deaths as suicide. The two young women were married off in a mass ceremony at the start of the month in Ambegaon taluka, western India, and had gone missing 10 days later.
Their families, from the village of Asane, last saw them when they set off to gather wood and fruit in a nearby forest and reported them missing three days ago.
Police said they probably committed suicide because they were married off against their wishes.
Inspector Girish Dighavkar of the Ghodegaon police station said, ‘Based on the primary investigation, we believe that the two have committed suicide.
Parents who tried to take their daughter to Pakistan to see her dying grandparents have been fined after flouting the terms of a forced marriage protection order.
The family, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were ‘detained’ by police at the departure gate at Manchester Airport. They were trying to board a flight to Pakistan with their teenage daughter and other family members in July 2015.
Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court heard that the couple were in breach of a forced marriage protection order imposed at Manchester Family Court in March 2015. However defence lawyers for the family argued that the parents believed the order had been rescinded so the youngster could leave the country of her own free will.
The court heard that her mother had been acting on ‘egregious information’ from the police and social services.
District judge Samuel Goozee said there had been ‘a wholesale breakdown’ by the police, social services and the school in relation to the order.
Read More: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/forced-marriage-order-parents-fined-11313484
When she was 7 years old, Mariya Karimjee sat on a tarp in a neighbor woman’s living room and had an operation that would affect her life forever. As part of a family tradition in her small Dawoodi Bohra sect of Islam, Karimjee had part of her clitoris removed in a procedure that was meant to make it impossible for her to feel desire or “get turned on.”
Karimjee shared her story of slowly learning about what happened to her that day in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1995 on the radio program This American Life this week, and has written about her experience previously for The Big Roundtable. As she said in the recording, her mom referred to her budding sexuality and anatomy as a “bug” that needed to be taken out.
“For two days [after the operation], I wore what I can only describe as a big-girl diaper wet with blood,” Karimjee said. “Peeing was so painful that I tried to last for hours without going until my mother explained that I could give myself an infection. For the next year, I’d break out into a cold sweat whenever I saw the kind-faced woman who, on a tarp on her living room floor, had spoken to me softly as she took a knife and cut me.”
Read M0re: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/news/a58222/what-its-like-to-experience-female-genital-mutiliation/
Anti-FGM campaigner Jaha Dukureh has been named one of the world’s most influential leaders by Time magazine alongside John Kerry, Angela Merkel, Aung San Suu Kyi, Bernie Sanders and Christine Lagarde.
Dukureh, the lead campaigner in the Guardian’s global media campaign to end female genital mutilation, was honoured in particular for her work in the US and the Gambia but is now campaigning to end the practice worldwide in a generation, using her experiences as a survivor to build public support.
She first came to prominence with the success of her change.org petition, which received more than 220,000 signatures, asking the Obama administration to conduct a new prevalence study into the current scope of FGM in the United States.
Now based in Atlanta, Dukureh has become the leading campaigner against FGM in the Gambia. She is of a new generation of young women in the country who are working through the media to make sure that the mutilation they have suffered is not repeated on their daughters.
A boy as young as eight is among scores of children feared by judges to be at risk of forced marriage as official figures reveal police are struggling to bring cases to court.
The schoolboy – thought to be one of the UK’s youngest known potential victims of forced marriage – is among 71 children, teenagers and women in West Yorkshire guarded by special court orders since 2014.
His case came to light as police figures, obtained by the Guardian, showed that only a fraction of investigations into forced marriage result in a prosecution. Many are dropped because victims are too scared to give evidence against their abuser.
In West Yorkshire, five of the 51 cases investigated since June 2014 resulted in a suspect being charged.Thirty-five of these investigations were dropped due to “evidential difficulties”, of which 16 were “victim-based” problems, the figures show.
There was a similar pattern in the West Midlands, where 19 of its 31 investigations resulted in no charges – eight because the victims did not support further action. There has been one conviction so far under a new forced marriage law introduced in June 2014.
In July 2014 it became a criminal offence to forced someone into marriage, but a Bristol-based charity says the law could be forcing victims to “go underground” rather than see their family charged.
Following a Freedom of Information request to HM Courts and Tribunal Service it was revealed that there have been “fewer than five forced marriage protection orders” made in Bristol since the introduction of the new legislation.
An order can help prevent people being married against their will, stop them being taken abroad to marry and force people to hand in passports.
“The Bristol statistics are disappointing and concerning and we need to find out why,” says Sabeena Suleman, a lawyer who helps run the Sky Project.
Read More: http://www.bristol247.com/channel/news-comment/features/investigations/marriage-victims-forced-underground-bristol