France Unveils New €40m Plan to Fight Radicalization

The Local/AFP, May 9, 2016

“The fight against jihadism is without doubt the big challenge since World War Two,” Manuel Valls said, flanked by the interior and justice ministers.

The Prime Minister said the “phenomenon of radicalization had widely penetrated into society” and that it was so dangerous because it had the potential to grow.

“It has deeply damaged the Republican pact,” he added.

One of his new measures is to create a de-radicalization centre in each region of the country to prevent those identified as being vulnerable to falling into the hands of jihadist groups.

Valls said at least half of the new de-radicalisation centres will take people at the request of the judicial authorities. They will be individuals “who cannot be put in prison”.

Around 1,600 young people in France are in state-run de-radicalisation programmes. The new scheme aims to bring that number up to 3,600 within two years.

An official report from earlier this year found that around 8,250 people are believed to have been converted to extremist Islam in France–twice as many as the year before.

Around 70 percent of the suspected Islamist radicals were male and 80 percent of the cases were deemed to be “serious”.

Valls said the first de-radicalization centre could be set up by this summer, and within two years there should be ten centres across the country.

The location of the first of the deradicalization centres in France, in Beaumont-en-Véron in the Indre et Loire département of central France, has prompted opposition from angry and frightened locals who feared that they may be the next target of a terror attack.

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Some of these de-radicalization centres will also accept people who have voluntarily returned from Syria or Turkey, Le Figaro reported, but these people would be subject to strict surveillance.

The full plan, which will cost an additional €40 million ($45.5 million) by 2018 on top of the current funding, aims to double existing resources spent on trying to help people already in jihadist networks or those likely to join such groups.

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The entire plan consists of 80 measures, including ramping up security at sensitive sites, the mobilization of ground troops as well as better support for the victims of terrorism.

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In January this year, France announced it was rolling out more “de-radicalization” prison wings, where prisoners who have been convicted of terrorism will be in isolated cells and will be unable to communicate with anyone who they could potentially influence.

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