COVID-19 and isolation contribute to radicalisation 'perfect storm', warn UK police

FILE PHOTO: Police officers wearing protective masks walk at Trafalgar Square, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on the first day of a newly imposed lockdown, in London, Britain November 5, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley

LONDON (Reuters) - The coronavirus pandemic and social isolation are contributing to a “perfect storm” that is making more young people vulnerable to radicalisation, British police warned on Wednesday.

The country’s terrorism threat level was raised to “severe” earlier this month as a precaution following attacks in France and Austria. The change means an attack is now seen as highly likely.

In the 18 months to the end of June, 17 children were arrested in relation to terrorism offences, including some as young as 14, counter terrorism police said.

“There has been a sharp increase in extremist material online in the last few years, and Covid-19 has meant that vulnerable people are spending a lot more time isolated and online, and with fewer of the protective factors that schooling, employment, friends and family can provide,” said Neil Basu, the national head of UK counter terrorism policing.

“In my opinion that is a perfect storm, one which we cannot predict and that we might be feeling the effects of for many years to come.”

A new safeguarding website called ACT early was being launched on Wednesday to help tackle the problem.

Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Stephen Addison