TL;DR: The Home Secretary went to Washington D.C. to address an American conservative think-tank on the issue of migration. Suella Braverman’s speech suggested being gay or a woman should not be enough to claim asylum. Despite strong criticism, she doubled down and insisted UK asylum seekers are pretending to be gay to “game the system”.
Suella Braverman said the aim of her speech was to “start a conversation” about the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
It's the internationally-recognised legislation that details how refugees should be treated and the obligations of nation states. The Home Secretary says she believes the documents are “outdated” and wants them reformed - The Guardian
Braverman said the asylum system would be unsustainable if being gay or a woman and fearful of discrimination in your country are considered qualifying factors for protection.
She said, “it is right to offer sanctuary” to those facing persecution, but she questioned the treaty’s definition of persecution - Financial Times
After delivering the speech, Braverman told ITV that the Home Office was seeing evidence of asylum seekers coming to the UK and claiming to be gay “to get special treatment”, adding “it’s not the way our asylum system should work” - ITV News
Immigration lawyers and experts say the Home Secretary is overstating the situation and that her assertions are not backed up by figures from her own department. Just 2% of all UK asylum claims in 2022 were made on the grounds of sexual orientation - Free Movement
Who was Suella Braverman speaking to?
The American Enterprise Institute is a right-wing think-tank. Before her speech, Braverman praised the AEI for contributing “so much to the intellectual foundations of the Conservative movement in the UK”.
She is one of many leading Tory politicians finding an ideologically aligned audience across the pond - The i Paper
But the Home Secretary is also thought to be trying to reach Conservative voters, and particularly party members.
The company she keeps and the media coverage she gets are said by some pundits to be part of a “shameless” leadership bid strategy - The Independent
Perhaps unexpectedly for Braverman, she got a strong reaction from Sir Elton John, who issued a statement with his husband David Furnish through the Elton John AIDS Foundation warning of the risks of “further legitimising hate and violence” against LGBTQIA+ people - Evening Standard
What’s really going on with LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers?
The government’s own statistics, released last month, show 72% of initial LGB asylum applications in 2022 were in some way approved (739 grants). Pakistani nationals accounted for the most applications (21%). Appeals data for last year is not yet available - Gov.uk
Monsur, from Bangladesh, has been in the UK for over a decade and is still waiting to be granted asylum after a court verdict said he was “manufacturing” his sexuality. He called Braverman’s comments “unfair” - Sky News
Joel is non-binary and arrived in the UK having been part of an LGBTQIA+ rights protest in their native Nigeria. They were granted refugee status after a year and said Braverman’s comments this week were “incredibly dangerous” - Metro
Analysis: Braverman is stoking fear amid shaky election polling
The effect of Braverman’s comments has been “so much anxiety” among LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers, says African Rainbow Family’s Aderonke Apata, who now works as a barrister after her own claim took 13 years to be granted - Channel 4 News
For Rainbow Migration, the UK charity that helps LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers, attempts need to be made to bring “dignity and compassion” into the current system, because the challenge of trying to prove sexual orientation or gender identity is “enormous” - Attitude
With a general election expected to be held next year and Rishi Sunak sliding in the polls, this week’s speech looks like part of Braverman’s positioning for a future push for the leadership. She tried to brush off that suggestion as “slightly flippant”, but her response was hardly convincing - Sky News
The Home Secretary is now facing a revolt within her own party. A report on Friday quoted several ministers from the ‘pink wall’ – a group of gay Tory MPs – who joined with allies to lodge a complaint with the Chief Whip over Braverman’s comments - The Times
A protest called ‘Stand Against Suella’ has been announced for Parliament Square on Sunday, October 1 (3pm). Organisers Pride in London and African Rainbow Family are calling for “protection from the government’s anti-LGBTQ+ agenda” - Gay Times
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