The number of teenagers being held under the UK’s Terrorism Act has more than tripled over the past two years, according to new figures released on Friday which also showed Asian-origin teens were six times more likely to be detained as compared to those who were white.
As many as 46 under—18s were detained under the act as they travelled in or out of the UK in 2015, compared with 13 in 2013, according to data obtained by the BBC as part of a Freedom of Information request to the UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council.
The data relates to Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which grants British police special powers to question and detain for up to six hours any individual passing through a UK port, airport, international rail terminal or border area.
The figures show those identifying themselves as Asian or Asian British were six times more likely to be detained than those who were white.
Under the Act, there is no requirement for an officer to have a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is involved with terrorism before they stop an individual.
Failure to cooperate with officers can result in three months in prison, a fine or both.
A further 190 under—18s were examined, but not detained, by UK police between July 2015 and March 2016 — allowing them to be questioned and searched for a maximum of an hour.
David Anderson, the UK’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, told BBC that Schedule 7 was “an essential power in the fight against terrorism”, through which important intelligence could be gathered.
He attributed the three-fold rise partly as the result of police stopping unaccompanied minors on outbound flights who they believe could be travelling on to Syria to join Islamic State (ISIS).
Over 500 British Muslims are believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Islamist extremist groups.
A UK Foreign Office statement said: “The UK has advised for some time against all travel to Syria. Anyone who does travel to these areas, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger.”