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Concerns over anti-terror reforms

New anti-terror laws have been published amid criticism by human rights groups and concerns raised by the terrorism legislation watchdog.

A new Counter-terrorism and Security Bill, containing a range of draconian powers including new orders that can block suspected British fighters from returning to the UK, was introduced to Parliament.

The anti-extremist reforms were published as police officers entered the third day of a counter-terrorism awareness week, which will see more than 6,000 people receive briefings at 80 venues across the country.

Meanwhile, a couple were arrested on suspicion of Syria-related terrorism offences at Heathrow Airport as they returned to the UK on a flight from Istanbul, while at the Old Bailey two brothers who admitted conspiracy to attend a terror training camp in Syria were being sentenced.

Plans to block suspected jihadists from returning to Britain in the Bill are "nothing like as dramatic" as David Cameron indicated they would be earlier this year, according to the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson.

Mr Anderson described the original proposals unveiled by the Prime Minister in September to counter the threat from British extremists travelling abroad to fight for Islamic State (IS) as an "announcement waiting for a policy".

He told MPs and peers he believed that it had soon become clear that such a move would "neither legally nor practically" work and the plan was now for a system of "managed return".

The new counter-terror legislation will ban insurance companies from footing the bill for terrorist ransoms and powers will be re-introduced to relocate terror suspects across the country.

A statutory duty will be placed on named organisations - such as colleges, universities, the police and probation providers - to help deter radicalisation and, where organisations fail, ministers will be able to issue court-enforced directions to them.

Police are to be handed powers in the new Bill to force internet firms to hand over details that could help identify suspected terrorists and paedophiles, while police and border staff will be given the power to seize the passports of terror suspects.

Its second reading in Parliament - the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of the Bill - will be announced soon.

Amnesty International UK legal adviser, Rachel Logan, raise concerns over some of the powers in the legislation.

She said: "It's dangerous to rush through this grab-bag of measures without proper scrutiny or challenge.

"While the Government needs to ensure that anyone suspected of criminal activity is investigated, measures like invalidating passports and excluding British nationals from their home country push the boundaries of international law.

"Meanwhile, adding the internal exile of forced relocation to the already unfair Tpims regime is another measure which causes significant concern for basic freedoms. We simply don't have the fair and proper processes in place for such drastic decisions."

Islamic Human Rights Commission chair Massoud Shadjareh said: "To go down the same route of policies which have failed to address terrorism is just going to alienate Muslims further and increase 'otherisation' of communities, encouraging the kind of victimisation that has resulted in ever-increasing attacks on places of worship and individuals."

Home Secretary Theresa May said : " This Bill includes a considered, targeted set of proposals that will help to keep us safe at a time of very significant danger by ensuring we have the powers we need to defend ourselves."

Today, the counter-terror campaign shifts focus to preventing vulnerable people from being brainwashed through social media and calls on parents, carers, friends and colleagues to be alert to signs of extremism.

It comes after the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) in its report on the murder of soldier Lee Rigby said the Government's Prevent programme, designed to divert individuals from radicalisation, has not been given sufficient priority.

People who are found to be at risk of radicalisation are then offered support through the "Channel" process, which involves several agencies working to give individuals access to services such as health, education, specialist mentoring and diversionary activities.

Between 2007 and 2014, there were 3,934 referrals to the Channel process.

National policing lead for the Prevent programme Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said: "The police cannot be in every mosque, college or other community venue monitoring what is discussed and the doctrines which are promoted. Nor would we want Britain to be such a society.

"We need parents, schools, partners, friends and colleagues to be aware of the signs that someone is being influenced by extremist messages and have the confidence to report any concerns to the police.

"Look out for notable changes in behaviour and mood, those vulnerable may begin to express extreme political or radical views, or appear increasingly sympathetic to terrorist acts, their appearance may change along with the friends that they spend time with or they may start to spend excessive time on their own or on the internet."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: " We have seen unprecedented numbers of people travelling from our country to join Isil (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in Syria and Iraq, so more does need to be done to make sure there are rapid ways to remove someone's passport if they are about to travel to join the fighting, and also to deal with the threat from those who want to return.

"We will look at the detail of these proposals being put forward to prevent this to make sure they are effective and proportionate, with appropriate safeguards in place.

"However, it is important to ensure any new measures are workable and are drawn up to deal with the terror threat rather than to deal with the Prime Minister's headlines. The independent reviewer has already warned that one of the measures is a fudge.

"We need strong powers to tackle the threat from Isil and we also need strong checks and balances too."

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile - who served as the independent reviewer of anti-terrorist laws from 2005 to 2011 - suggested that his party colleague, Justice Minister Simon Hughes, had drawn a false distinction over the Tpim reforms.

Mr Hughes earlier dismissed suggestions that the inclusion of powers to relocate terrorist suspects represented a return of the control orders brought in by the previous Labour government which the Lib Dems consistently opposed.

But Lord Carlile said the relocation provisions were "strikingly similar".

"You may have heard Simon Hughes denying that relocation orders had been introduced, that they had been replaced by 'overnight residence measures'.

"Well, I have been using my legal microscope on the draft legislation this afternoon and I am struggling to find a difference between a microbe and a microbe.

"Although the curfew period maximum has been reduced to 10 hours - it was 16 at one stage - relocation is back."

He welcomed the return of what had proved "a powerful tool in disrupting terrorist activities" that was not in breach of human rights legislation as part of a Bill that was "largely a wise and beneficial piece of legislation".

The peer renewed his backing for strengthened data-gathering powers for the intelligence agencies, urging critics of the so-called Snooper's Charter, including his own party leadership, not to "inhibit clear public interest".

Lord Carlile also backed putting the Prevent programme on a statutory basis, revealing that a senior minister had told him some MPs and peers were "outraged" that local authorities were to be required to take part.

"The failures of Prevent have been because some local authorities have been outstandingly good at it and some just haven't bothered very much.

"Placing a duty on local authorities is right," he said.

The peer was speaking at the launch of a new all-party parliamentary group on tackling extremism, led by Labour MP Khalid Mahmood.

Mr Mahmood renewed his warning that official estimates that 500 Britons have joined the conflict in Syria massively under-estimated the number, which he said was more likely to be around 2,000.

Toaha Qureshi, who runs the Stockwell Green Community Services community group, said the authorities lacked an accurate picture because they had failed to properly engage with mosques and other Islamic organisations which were working to tackle radicalisation.

"We know that it is not 500 people, it could be more than 2,000. Because what we see in the community that is totally different to what we hear from the Government officials because there is no engagement with the community," he said.

"Community intelligence is not being gathered in the proper fashion."

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