Nearly 4,000 people were referred to the UK government's counter-terrorism scheme in 2015, the Guardian has revealed. The figure averages at 11 people every day and is nearly triple the amount from the previous year.
The figures, published by the National Police Chief Council under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that children aged nine and under were among the 3,995 people reported to the Channel programme in 2015. The increase in numbers come following a move by the government in June 2015 that saw prisons, NHS Trusts and schools put under a statutory duty to tackle extremist radicalisation.
Dr Erin Saltman, senior counterterrorism researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told the Guardian: "It's indicative of a couple of things. One is that there's a huge amount of awareness around radicalisation that just didn't exist before – it's now a buzzword where as five years ago it wouldn't have been."
Dr Saltman also explained that there had been an "increase in fear" around radicalisation, particularly in regards to foreign terrorist fighters joining the Islamic State (Isis). Data received by the Guardian revealed that 788 of the referrals were made in the West Midlands, out of which at least 354 were reported to be of Muslim faith.
While the data noted that the religion section was not a mandatory field and is not always completed, it revealed that the religion of 177 referrals was not known. The figures also indicated that at least 41 Christians had been referred to the programme, alongside a handful of Sikhs.
The largest number of referrals in the West Midlands were aged between 15-19 years old, with 235 in this age category having been made. The second highest age group was 10-14 years old, where 183 referrals had been made. Nearly 70 referrals were made for children aged nine and under.