A review into the death of two Brighton boys who died fighting in Syria highlighted ‘missed opportunities’ by authorities to identify they were being radicalised.
But the report did conclude that the right structures are now in place to stop children from going abroad to fight - and two young people from Brighton and Hove had since been prevented from doing so.
The Brighton and Hove Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) today (July 27) released its serious case review, into the death of two Muslim brothers who died fighting for a group affiliated with Al Qaeda in Syria in 2014. The brothers were named by the BBC as Abdullah and Jaffar Deghayes, who were aged 17 and 18 when they died. The pair had travelled to Syria in January 2014 with another Brighton teenager, following their older sibling Amer who remains in the war-torn area.
The report said there was ‘no recognition’ of the siblings' vulnerability to radicalisation, but that there were two opportunities where authorities could have explored concerns.
One incident was in 2013, when a school became aware of young people converting to Islam, and being ‘paid money’ to attend a gym behind the mosque attended by a relative of the siblings. Although the school flagged up its concerns, ‘no further information was obtained’ about the gym by authorities.
The second opportunity was when a youth worker became concerned about the ‘emotional’ way one of the brothers spoke about Americans after he had returned from a trip from Libya, the family’s home country. This led to a referral to the Channel panel - which aims to safeguard children from radicalisation - but it concluded the boy was not at risk of being drawn into terror-related activities.
It wasn’t until the brothers travelled to Syria in January 2014 that local authorities gave a ‘striking response’ to prevent young people from radicalisation.
The report by independent reviewer Edi Carmi looked at what more could have been done to support the family, and to identify vulnerability to radicalisation in young people.
The children’s turbulent upbringing is referred to in the report, as well as the family being targeted by racism, which may have led to the brothers turning to crime.
The review found that although there were many agencies working with the family, such as social services, young offending services and police, a lack of shared information between authorities may have made it harder to assess safeguarding issues.
Graham Bartlett, independent chair of the LSCB, said: “The system as a whole let these young boys down. Locally, the professionals had not identified that the brothers were at risk of radicalisation or at risk of fighting overseas. There was and remains no evidence to indicate how they were radicalised.”
The review highlights that much good work has been done to improve systems to prevent young people from radicalisation - including involving the views of the local BAME community (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) in the report. But it did find that ‘considerable work’ remains in developing better partnership working between different agencies.
Mr Bartlett said: “I am very confident that the structures are in place now to better identify children that are at risk of travelling to fight abroad. We have seen two young people prevented from travelling due to constraints put on them.
“The safeguarding risk of UK children going abroad to fight in a war was only recognised after these events, and the Board is faced with establishing how best to help protect young people in this new global context - bearing in mind there is no single root of radicalisation.”
He said the LSCB was committed to taking the learning from the review forward, and that this in turn would inform policies and practices across the UK.
Geoff Raw, chief executive of Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “It is very difficult when we think back to 2012/13, radicalisation and children travelling to Syria was not a known quantity for professionals at that time. We learned very quickly and have stopped two children from travelling since then.
“I think our ability to manage that risk - vulnerable people being radicalised - our ability to manage those risks has much improved as we’ve learned more and more about this.”
Tariq Jung from the Brighton and Hove Muslim Forum: said: “We welcome this report and look forward to working with all the agencies to make sure this type of thing does not happen again in this community.
“We were not really aware of the type of things that were going on. It was very difficult for the authorities to pick this up.
“We now have to work together, all of us. We’ve got to take the lead and we have to make sure we stop this from happening ever again.”
To read the full report click here