UK Blues

The UK’s home secretary faces backlash for comments on gay refugees

A rising star in the UK Conservative Party, Suella Braverman has built a career on paranoia over migrants fleeing persecution. Now Braverman wants to undo a UN asylum convention that has been international law since the end of WWII. Specifically, she wants harsher laws in place for refugees fleeing gender or anti-gay persecution to find asylum.

On Tuesday, Braverman gave a speech at right-wing think tank American Enterprise Institute where she took aim at the UN’s asylum laws. Established in 1951, the Refugee Convention outlines international legal protections for asylum seekers—most importantly, the definition of a refugee and the provision that refugees cannot be sent back if they would face danger. Both the US and UK are among about 150 countries who have signed onto this law.

But Braverman wants to bring an end to 70 years of human rights protections on the grounds that the law is too lenient. “Let me be clear, there are vast swathes of the world where it is extremely difficult to be gay, or to be a woman,” she said, according to the BBC. “Where individuals are being persecuted, it is right that we offer sanctuary.

“But we will not be able to sustain an asylum system if in effect, simply being gay, or a woman, and fearful of discrimination in your country of origin is sufficient to qualify for protection.”

In addition to suggesting that gay people and women need to experience persecution before seeking asylum (as in beatings, imprisonment or death), Braverman went on to make not-so-subtly racist claims. Referring to the “misguided dogma of multiculturalism,” she made the same tired right-wing argument that immigration dilutes culture. An immigrant herself, Braverman referenced her own story as an example of the right kind of immigration, given that her parents “both signed up to British values wholeheartedly.”

“Multiculturalism makes no demands of the incomer to integrate,” she said. “It has failed because it allowed people to come to our society and live parallel lives in it. And, in extreme cases, they could pursue lives aimed at undermining the stability and threatening the security of society.”

Nothing in Braverman’s speech was all that surprising. The fixation on migrants has been her go-to cynical strategy for the entirety of her stay in office. Last year, she even described the idea of shipping migrants off to Rwanda her “dream” and “obsession.”

But the UN’s refugee agency has thoroughly denounced her comments, saying the Refugee Convention “remains a life-saving instrument.”

“The need is not for reform, or more restrictive interpretation, but for stronger and more consistent application of the convention and its underlying principle of responsibility-sharing,” the agency said.

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