Rotterdam has been at the forefront of countering violent extremism with its comprehensive anti-radicalisation strategy and efforts to cooperate with cities all over the world facing similar challenges. An estimated 190 Dutch citizens have travelled to Syria and Iraq. Of these, approximately 30 have died and 35 have returned back to the Netherlands. In recent years, the number of reported cases of Islamist radicalisation in Rotterdam has increased steadily according to both the police and the Radicalisation Contact and Advisory Point (MAR).
In 2014, the Radicalisation Contact and Advisory Point (MAR) received 40 reports, compared to 20 in 2013 and 16 in 2012. Though the number of cases in Rotterdam is still relatively low when compared to the rest of the country and may be explained in part by increased awareness levels, the increase is significant and the nature of the reports received has become more complex. In spite of perceived low levels of social tension in Rotterdam, the municipality has sought to pay close attention to this issue, in order to prevent international conflicts from affecting local communities.
One of the founding members of the Strong Cities Network, Rotterdam has been a member of the SCN International Steering Committee since the SCN launch in September 2015, and has made an active contribution to network activities and best practice sharing.
The Dutch National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) is responsible for analysing the national and international terrorist threat against the Netherlands. The NCTV issues threat assessments reports four times a year, which form the basis of the Dutch national counterterrorism strategy. The Dutch National Counterterrorism Strategy 2016-2020 outlines the broader counter terrorism strategy of the Netherlands for the current period. It identifies 5 “intervention areas”: acquire information; prevent; defend; prepare; and prosecute. For each of these areas, multi-agency structures are in place to ensure cooperation between different partners and government levels, including local governments and municipalities.
The Dutch government has been monitoring jihadist extremism for over a decade, issuing regular reports on the development of jihadism in the Netherlands. The conflict in Syria and Iraq sparked an all-time high in jihadist activity and organisations and led to the departure of Dutch foreign terrorist fighters. The Dutch government responded by issuing The Netherlands’ comprehensive action programme to combat jihadism (in Dutch; read a summary in English here) in 2014. The programme outlines many detailed measures to reduce the number of foreign terrorist fighters and prevent radicalisation, tackling extremist content online, and ensuring communication and cooperation at the local level with NGOs and religious groups. The measures have been implemented gradually and the progress of the action programme is regularly evaluated by the government. These evaluation reports are available on the website of the NCTV (in Dutch only).
In addition, the NCTV has issued several guidebooks, advising municipalities, companies and schools (in Dutch only) on how to deal with radicalisation and terrorism.
The #Safe010 (“#Veilig010”, in Dutch only) is the overall security strategy of the City of Rotterdam, aimed at creating a safe city with reduced crime levels. For the most vulnerable areas, the city has appointed ‘city marines’ as part of the #Safe010 strategy. These are local on-the-ground city workers that monitor safety, develop new security measures where necessary and engage with the local community to do so. The #Safe010 also encompasses radicalisation, reinforcing the centrality of the Radicalisation Contact and Advisory Point (MAR, see “Key Initiatives”). In addition to the #Safe010 strategy, the municipality has developed and implemented a dedicated Rotterdam Anti-Radicalisation Approach with four core areas of activity, as outlined below.
Rotterdam’s anti-radicalisation approach incorporates a multi-agency framework and brings together representatives of various parties, including colleagues from various clusters and districts, representatives from Rotterdam’s community organisations, religious institutions, additional municipalities and ministries, and other relevant individuals. The four core areas of activity that fall within the remit of the anti-radicalisation approach include:
- Fighting polarisation and preventing societal tension:
- Developing initiatives with the public concerning problems that citizens themselves experience;
- Identifying and analysing existing social tensions;
- Forming a network of key individuals, helping to recognise signs of radicalisation;
- Facilitating dialogue with relevant partners that can prevent social tensions.
- Supporting public initiatives to maintain consistent and open dialogue and discussion;
- Supporting the development of new prevention measures;
- Facilitating open dialogue gatherings.
- Identification and training:
- Instructing and informing parents, volunteers and professionals;
- Increasing CVE expertise among volunteers, professionals, advisors and educators, with a specific focus on radicalisation in schools;
- Distributing factsheets on Rotterdam’s anti-radicalisation approach to raise awareness of the Radicalisation Contact and Advisory Point (MAR, see “Key Initiatives”).
- Individualised approach
- Meetings at VHRR (Veiligheidshuis Rotterdam-Rijnmond/Security House Rotterdam-Rijnmond) about each case of radicalisation, where information can be shared with all partners involved. Depending on the seriousness and level of radicalisation, relevant parties are involved to design an approach tailored to the individual concerned;
- Reinforcing networks of professionals and advisors;
- Reinforcing individualised approaches and interventions;
- Combining administrative/penal measures and personal supervision. This includes passport and travel restrictions, taking child protective custody measures, terminating benefits, and offering day facilities, psychological counselling and open discussion of key issues;
- Providing de-radicalisation and disengagement initiatives.
KEY SOURCES & FURTHER READING
Official Strategy Documents & Action Plans
- The Netherlands comprehensive action programme to combat jihadism (in Dutch, read a summary in English here)
- National Counterterrorism Strategy 2016-2020
- The #Safe010 (“#Veilig010”)
- ‘Rotterdam’s Anti-Radicalisation Approach’ 2015- 2018
- Rotterdam’s Resilient City Strategy