France sets up deradicalization centers, unveils comprehensive counterterrorism plan

France plans to set up a deradicalization centers in several cities and towns to help the authorities identify would-be Islamist extremists and reach out to them in order to prevent them from joining jihadist groups.

The Local reports that the establishment of the “reinsertion and citizenship centers” in each of the country’s regions is a central element of a comprehensive, 80-point plan to counter home-grown terrorism.

The plan was unveiled on Monday.

The government noted that the two-year plan includes many antiterrorism measures aiming to deal with the growing number of French citizens attracted to Islamist groups, and also several early warning measures aiming to spot those tempted to join the Islamist groups.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said fighting the appeal of “deadly” doctrines was the greatest challenge the country faced in more than seventy years. He said there had to be a “general mobilization” of all sectors of society to fight the problem following last November’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

“Radicalization and terrorism are linked. We are faced with a stubborn phenomenon that has widely spread through society and which threatens it because it could expand massively,” Valls said.

“The radicalization of part of our youth, seduced by a deadly antisocial model, is in my view the most serious challenge we have faced since the second world war because it deeply damages the republican pact.”

The French government has created a cabinet-level committee – the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Prevention of Delinquency and Radicalization (CIPDR) — to oversee the program, which will also involve public, private, religious, and secular groups under the umbrella of a national coordination group.

The government has also extended two programs which were launched in 2014: an anonymous, free phone number which people can use to report extremist suspects, and help for families who have members who have been radicalized.

The government’s plan also includes measure to tighten security around sensitive facilities —nuclear plants, public transportation hubs, airports and seaports, chemical facilities.

The government has also established a scientific committee to research the sources of radicalization and terrorism, and allocated increased funding and grants to universities for related studies.

France’s intelligence and security services will be bolstered with more money and augmented staff.

The dozen or so deradicalization centers will serve as shelters for young people who “could have repented and who we will test the sincerity and willingness to be reintegrated back into society for the long term”, Valls said.

He said the aim of the centers would be to prevent young people from going to Syria and begin the process of deradicalizing them.

The centers will house people who were found by a judge to be at risk of being radicalized, but who cannot be placed in detention, Valls added.

French intelligence estimates that there are more than 9,000 radicalized people or would-be jihadists in France. About 2,000 French nationals or residents have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight in ISIS ranks.

Around 1,600 young people in France are in state-run deradicalization programs. The new scheme aims to bring that number up to 3,600 within two years.

The plan, which will cost an additional $45.5 million by 2018 on top of the current funding, aims to double existing resources spent on trying to help people already in jihadist networks or those likely to join such groups.

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