The senior national coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing Helen Ball launched a national campaign aimed at starting the conversation about protecting our young people from the dangers of travelling to Syria.
The national event, launched last Thursday (April 24), is being mirrored across the Eastern region, with a similar launch in Luton aimed at encouraging women to reach out to other women who are concerned about young people who may be planning to travel to Syria.
The campaign is urging community representatives to continue the conversation within their communities so that everyone can play a part in protecting our young people from these risks.
To support the campaign, a leaflet has been designed which outlines the risks of travelling to Syria and will be issued at ports across the country.
It was recognised at the meeting that whilst some youngsters want to travel to fight in the conflict many others want to offer aid and support to the Syrian people.
One of the key messages is the importance of letting people who genuinely want to help the Syrian cause know how they can do so safely and legally.
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 DEC or its member charities.
The number of people travelling to Syria from the UK is judged to be in the low hundreds and information that is available shows that the number of Syria-related arrests has 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.
Cambridgeshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Jon Boutcher said: “We are increasingly concerned about the numbers of young people who have or are intending to travel to Syria to join the conflict from the Eastern region.
“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 from the Charities Commission added: “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 – www.charity-commission.gov.uk
For all the latest news see Thursday’s (May 1) Echo.