New housing strategy to reintegrate extremists

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According to reports The Home Office is looking at a new strategy to reintegrate extremists who – depending on assessment – could take priority on housing waiting lists

Under pilot schemes, police and local authorities would assess extremists formerly investigated as suspects by the security services to see what threat they pose and what it would take to help reintegrate them.

Extremists who had nowhere suitable to live could be put in social housing by the local council and could have their rent paid if necessary.

Up to 20,000 extremists who have been previously investigated by MI5 will be targeted in the scheme called ‘Operation Constrain’.

Whitehall sources have confirmed the scheme could also apply to Britons returning from Islamic State group territory in Syria.

Security services have prioritised issues surrounding Britons returning from Syria ahead of the imminent collapse of the caliphate of Islamic State in Iraq and Levant.

Some 850 Britons are thought to have travelled to Syria in recent years and around 350 are thought to have returned.

So far only a small proportion have been prosecuted.

Counter terrorism officials have said it can be difficult to find evidence that they committed crimes in the war zones of Syria and Iraq.

Earlier this month, Max Hill QC, the government’s terrorism law watchdog, suggested that those who had travelled out of “naivety” might be better reintegrated rather than prosecuted.

MI5 previously confirmed that around 20,000 people had been “persons of interest” in counter terrorism investigations in the past.

Under the existing de-radicalisation programme ‘Prevent’, teachers, doctors and social workers can refer people they fear may turn to extremism.

Constrain, as initially outlined, would allow police and social workers to contact people already on MI5’s databases to assess what danger they pose and what it would take to integrate them into society.

In hotspots for terror suspects such as Birmingham, Manchester and London, police will be handed details of potential terrorists by counter-terrorism services and will visit them in person.

A local panel would decide what interventions could work.

If those listed have no suitable accommodation, the housing department of the relevant council can work towards accessing social housing, with rent payments covered.

Such interventions are seen as assisting police and Prevent teams being able to send back assessments about the risk the extremists pose.

The Home Office said: “We are reviewing our counter-terrorism strategy to make sure we respond to the evolving threat in the most effective way we can.”

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