Canberra: Australia’s national police agency on Friday revealed that the number of investigations it is conducting into far-right extremism has increased 750 per cent in the past 18 months.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) Assistant Commissioner Scott Lee warned that far-right extremism is the country’s fastest-growing threat, reports Xinhua news agency.
He told broadcaster SBS that the number of nationalist and racist violent extremism cases before the AFP’s Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCCT) has grown by 750 per cent since the start of 2020 and now accounts for 15 per cent of the unit’s investigations compared to 2 per cent in 2019.
“There was certainly an increase in the JCCT’s nationalist and racist violent extremism caseload from 2019 and into early 2020,” Lee said.
“We expect it to increase further than what we are seeing at the moment, but how much further it will increase is difficult to ascertain at the moment.”
He said the rise could be partly attributed to the coronavirus pandemic, with Australians in lockdown spending more time online, expanding the rapid spread of extremist ideologies.
“We are seeing the impact of Covid-19 more broadly on some of the ideological drivers as well, so we are expecting it will increase particularly in terms of racist views, where people are anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim or anti-Indigenous. We are seeing this affect people, particularly young people who are vulnerable to these ideologies,” Lee said.
The rise in AFP cases reflects a trend in the wider Australian law enforcement community.
Australia’s domestic spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), revealed earlier this year that right-wing extremism now accounts for 50 percent of its caseload compared to 10 percent before 2019.