Crime & the Law

Media campaign launched to help prevent young people travelling to Syria to join Islamic state

Three missing teenage girls from East London suspected of being on their way to join the Islamic State. Image: Met Police

Three missing teenage girls from Bethnal Green Academy leaving Gatwick Airport on their way to join their friend in Syria who had travelled to the so-called Islamic state. Image: Met Police

A radio and poster campaign has been launched this morning to help prevent young people travelling to Syria.

It’s run by The National Police Counter Terrorism Network and NGOs.

The campaign is designed to reach out to families through radio and press adverts appearing in minority ethnic media across the country.

Supporting organisations backing the campaign include Inspire- a non-governmental advocacy organisation working to counter extremism and gender inequality and FAST- Families against Stress and Trauma, which was established in 2007 to provide support to vulnerable families and individuals.

FAST say:

Travelling to Iraq or Syria in most cases is a one-way ticket. As parents it’s important that we play our part in ensuring we don’t lose any more children.

The adverts highlight the strong bond between a mother and daughter and how that relationship can have a powerful influence on a young woman and the decisions she makes.

They encourage mothers to have open discussions with their daughters about issues such as travelling to Syria and what they are viewing online.

In the last year 22 women and girls have been reported missing to police by families who feared they have travelled to Syria.

They’ve journeyed into a situation of extreme danger and left their families devastated.

The Met Police say:

The campaign recognises that it is mothers who often spot changes in behaviour or signs someone may be considering travelling to a conflict that millions are desperate to escape.

By encouraging mothers to have an open dialogue with their daughters, it is hoped that potential interest in travelling to Syria will be picked up at an early stage and that the mother will be able to take action, either by challenging the misconceptions or seeking help from other agencies, including the police.

Families are also encouraged to reach specially trained officers for help and advice by calling 101 or visiting www.preventtragedies.co.uk.

This is a dedicated webpage, newly created as a one-stop-shop for concerned families to visit if they would like further information or advice around this issue.

The website also provides links to a range to a range of further organisations working in this field.

Leaflets supporting the campaign will also be provided to police forces to distribute locally by Prevent officers and partners.

Prevent Tragedies Leaflet. Image: Met Police

Prevent Tragedies Leaflet. Image: Met Police

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball, Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, said:

This advertising campaign is part of our sustained efforts to continue to raise awareness around this very serious issue.

We care deeply about the well-being of women and girls throughout the world. We reject the degrading treatment of women by terrorist organisations and seek to prevent the tragedies caused by it.

We are increasingly concerned about the numbers of young women who have travelled or are intending to travel to Syria. It is an extremely dangerous place and the reality of the lifestyle they are greeted with when they arrive is far from that promoted online by terrorist groups. The option of returning home is often taken away from them, leaving families at home devastated and with very few options to secure a safe return for their loved one.

We want to increase families their confidence in the police and partners to encourage them to come forward at the earliest opportunity so that we can intervene and help.

Kalsoom Bashir from Inspire said:

Having seen the devastation facing families where a loved one has travelled to Syria I would advise families to keep their children close – to constantly remind them that they are loved, that they are part of a strong family network and that they can talk to you about anything they are worried about.

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