UK police chief warns of terrorist threat as lockdown eases

Cressida Dick says officers are dealing with more than 800 cases

The head of London's Metropolitan Police has warned of the risk of a terrorist attack as lockdown restrictions eased in England on Monday.

Cressida Dick said her officers are dealing with more than 800 live cases and that they have seen a rise in the threat of far-right terrorism.

Since 2017, she said, 29 lethal intended attacks had been prevented, 18 of which were by Islamist militants and 10 by far-right extremists.

The UK's terrorism threat level is currently rated as “substantial”. Ms Dick has warned an attack is “still likely” as travel opens up and people gather together.

“As lockdown eases there may be greater opportunities for terrorists to exploit in terms of travel and crowds of people,” she told The National.

“Right now the police and the security services are working on a very high level of investigations, more than 800. Of these, we are seeing an increased proportion of extreme right-wing terrorists. There is no doubt there is an increasing threat. Around one in four of our arrests relate to extreme right-wing terrorists.”

She also warned of youngsters being radicalised, with one in 10 of those arrested under the age of 18.

“It is a global phenomenon and we are working with our international partners to defeat it,” she said.

She said the force is working with 300 companies to tackle online radicalisation and more than 315,000 pieces of extremist content have been taken down since 2015.

Ms Dick said there has been a recent spike in anti-Semitic incidents in London during the recent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.

She described attacks against the Jewish community as “vile” and said investigations are continuing against those responsible.

The Met has faced criticism over its policing of the Euro 2020 championships after a number of ticketless fans tried to force their way into Wembley Stadium for the final.

“There were disgraceful scenes of drunken football fans trying to force themselves into Wembley, attacking stewards,” she said.

“Some of my officers were injured. There will be a review into what happened at the final.”

But she said that London is a “safe” city.

Earlier on Monday the UK’s House of Commons began hearing the second reading of Home Secretary Priti Patel’s tough new immigration bill which will provide officers with more powers to tackle people smugglers.

The Nationality and Borders Bill proposes longer sentences for traffickers and the deportation of migrants arriving on illegal boats.

New laws will make it a criminal offence for asylum seekers to enter Britain without permission.

The changes will give police the power to lock up entrants who do not arrive through an airport, ferry terminal or train station after charging them, instead of sending them to hotels or detention centres while their asylum claims are processed.

More than 8,000 asylum seekers made the hazardous crossing of the English Channel last year, but the authorities hope that tough new immigration laws will deter others. More than 16,000 people illegally entered the UK last year.

“The system is broken,” Ms Patel said, when launching the bill earlier this month.

“We stand by our moral and legal obligations to help innocent people fleeing cruelty from around the world. But the system must be a fair one.”

(FILES) This file photo taken on September 12, 2017 shows Britain's International Development Secretary Priti Patel arriving to attend the weekly meeting of the cabinet at Downing Street in central London. 
British Prime Minister Theresa May summoned her aid minister, International Development Secretary Priti Patel, back from a trip to Africa on November 8, 2017, following a row over unauthorised meetings in Israel, prompting speculation she will be the second minister in a week to be sacked. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS

In 2019, UK asylum applications increased by 21 per cent on the year to almost 36,000 — the highest number since the 2015/16 European “migration crisis".

The asylum system now costs the UK over £1 billion ($1.38bn) a year to run.

On Monday, shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds hit out at the bill.

“The reality is that this bill will do nothing to fix this,” he told The Independent.

“Instead it means the government will turn their backs on some of the most vulnerable people on Earth. So aggressive is this legislation, it could criminalise the RNLI for saving people at sea — and had this bill been in place when Sir Nicholas Winton was rescuing hundreds of children from the Holocaust on the Kindertransport, it would have risked him being criminalised for his life-saving actions.

“As ever with this home secretary, the bill is an attempt to talk tough but will deliver nothing. Labour will not stand back and allow this government to pass such divisive and ill-judged legislation that will damage Britain’s authority across the world.”

Updated: July 19th 2021, 3:34 PM
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