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Prevent tragedies: Starting the conversation on Syria

Thursday 24 April 2014, 10:24am

The South East Counter Terrorism Unit is supporting a national awareness campaign today (24 April), led by Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing Helen Ball.  The campaign is aimed at protecting young people from the dangers of travelling to Syria.

Nationally, the number of people travelling to Syria from the UK is judged to be in the low hundreds and Syria-related arrests have increased substantially in 2014. The figure for the whole of 2013 was approximately 25 yet for the first three months of 2014 alone it is approximately 40.

The South East Counter Terrorism Unit’s Regional Prevent Team has been engaging with communities for some time regarding Syria and has held large-scale community conferences across the South East. The aim is to start a dialog and support communities to understand the risks, giving communities an opportunity to raise their concerns in an open forum.

A leaflet has been designed which outlines the risks of travelling to Syria and this has been distributed across the South East.   

It is recognised that whilst some young people want to travel to fight in the conflict many others want to offer aid and support to the Syrian people. The advice is to donate to registered charities which have experience of providing humanitarian assistance in high risk, insecure and dangerous environments and which have ongoing relief operations in Syria and/or neighbouring countries, such as the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) or its member charities.

Senior National Coordinator, Helen Ball said: “We are increasingly concerned about the numbers of young people who have or are intending to travel to Syria to join the conflict. We want to ensure that people, particularly women, who are concerned about their loved ones are given enough information about what they can do to prevent this from happening. We want to increase their confidence in the police and partners to encourage them to come forward so that we can intervene and help. This is not about criminalising people it is about preventing tragedies. We want to inform those who wish to genuinely help the Syrian cause how they can do so safely and legally.”

Michelle Russell, Charities Commission said: “There is a genuine and desperate need for humanitarian assistance to help people affected by the conflict in Syria. UK charities and their partners are playing an important role in the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria and its neighbouring countries. In part, they have only been able to do this by the generous donations of the public.

“We want everyone to make informed choices about which charities to support and how to support them so that they can feel confident that their contribution really will make a difference to the humanitarian effort.”

The Charity Commission’s website should be used to check that a charity is registered and to ensure that donations will be used properly -

Police are appealing to all communities to help protect young people who may be planning to travel to Syria. While the campaign reaches out to women in particular, police are encouraging anyone who is concerned about the safety of a loved one to come forward.

If you have any concerns about someone who’s planning to travel to Syria, you should contact your local police or dial 101 (non-emergency). They’ll talk with you in confidence.

To contact the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline dial 0800 789 321.

Notes for editors:
Press release issued on behalf of SECTU. Phone interviews will be available with DCI Pete Oliphant from 2pm.Please email if you wish to book an interview.

Press Bureau
(01865) 846699

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