Mechelen mayor to present report on combating radicalisation


Mechelen mayor Bart Somers is expected to present a report to the Committee of the Regions today on the efforts to prevent radicalisation of young people

“Prevention first”

Bart Somers is expected to present a report to the Committee of the Regions on the efforts by the cities of Mechelen, Vilvoorde and Antwerp to prevent radicalisation of young people

The three cities have worked together to come up with an action plan against radicalisation. Both Vilvoorde and Antwerp have produced large numbers of young men who have gone to fight in Syria, but Mechelen has seen none, thanks to policies that changed 15 years ago, says Somers, who also serves as vice-president of the liberal ALDE party.

Last year, Somers (pictured) was asked by his party to come up with the report. He began work before the November terrorist attacks in Paris, which were linked to Brussels. Those attacks were later followed by the attacks in March at Brussels airport and the Brussels metro.

“I began with the knowledge that there is no silver bullet to the problem of violent radicalisation,” Somers said in a statement. “Experts have identified three steps to combating radicalisation: prevention, intervention and repression. I have focused on prevention because that is where city mayors and their administrations can make the biggest difference. And it is also the most effective area in which to work; you have to start by looking at root causes.”

Since coming up with an action plan in Mechelen, the city authorities have seen no more radicalised young people leaving to fight in Syria. “This is partly because of our investment in the public sphere, but also because of our city’s close and inclusive social network,” Somers said. “We are building a climate of trust. This is a long-term project that requires constant care.”

The report calls for investment in police tracking and surveillance to prevent the creation of no-go areas. It also calls for celebration of multiculturalism and opposition to discrimination, which it describes as “the food source on which radicalisation thrives”.

Photo: Luc Claessen/Belga