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Norwegian government minister visits Poplar to get the ‘Spotlight’ on tackling youth radicalisation

PUBLISHED: 09:17 23 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:13 23 November 2017

Norwegian Immigration minister Sylvi Listhaug arrives at Poplar's Spotlight youth facility  to learn about tackling radicalisation. Picture: Rehan Jami

Norwegian Immigration minister Sylvi Listhaug arrives at Poplar's Spotlight youth facility to learn about tackling radicalisation. Picture: Rehan Jami

© Rehan Jamil

The Norwegian government minister for immigration has been finding out how east London is tackling youth radicalisation and extremism.

Poplar Harca's neighbourhood director Babu Bhattercherjee welcoming Sylvi Listhaug to Spotlight youth facility. Picture: Rehan Jami. Picture: Rehan Jami Poplar Harca's neighbourhood director Babu Bhattercherjee welcoming Sylvi Listhaug to Spotlight youth facility. Picture: Rehan Jami. Picture: Rehan Jami

Sylvi Listhaug visited Poplar’s Spotlight youth space at Langdon Park to hear at first hand how it works to help youngsters integrate better into society.

Spotlight offers programmes targeted at 2,500 teenagers every year at five centres in the East End, the minister learned in her meeting with Babu Bhattacherjee, from Poplar Harca housing organisation which runs the facility.

“The focus is on creativity and sport,” Mr Bhattacherjee told her. “We help combat issues like anti-social behaviour, crime and even the potential for radicalisation by encouraging them to discover passions that could turn into careers.

“We offer an Olympic-spec boxing ring, sprung dance floor and state-of-the-art recording and audio visual equipment.”

The Norwegian immigration minister in talks with Met Police Chief Insp Martin Kirby on tackling youth radicalisation. Picture: Rehan Jami The Norwegian immigration minister in talks with Met Police Chief Insp Martin Kirby on tackling youth radicalisation. Picture: Rehan Jami

The Norwegian minister also met police Chief Insp Martin Kirby and Sgt Luke May on her tour.

They discussed how the Metropolitan Police works with housing organisations like Poplar Harca, with Tower Hamlets Council and with charities to run anti-radicalisation programmes in the community.

The programmes have been stepped up in the past two years following incidents in 2015 when four schoolgirls from Bethnal Green slipped out of the country and made their way to Syria to join Islamic extremist fighters.

One example the Poplar facility now offers to help youth integration was the Steel Warriors charity last month erecting callisthenics equipment in Langdon Park made from melted down knives collected by the police off the streets, which the Norwegian minister saw on her visit on Tuesday.

Spotlight also has a youth empowerment board that takes decisions on how its spaces are managed and has programmes for youngsters who need extra help.

It works with police, anti-social behaviour teams, schools and Tower Hamlets council to give youngsters “safe spaces” to explore their mental and physical health which the housing organisation hopes “will steer them away from isolation and radicalisation”.

Spotlight aims to reduce the spread of extremism in the community, she learned, by using the arts and sport to keep youngsters away from isolation and radical ideologies.

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