Braverman suggested being gay and facing discrimination should not qualify you for refugee status
Her 'tough on immigration' stance is nothing new, but there is little appetite to reform the Refugee Convention
Home secretary's speech prompted a backlash from campaigners but one MP said it was 'spot on'
Suella Braverman's speech on refugees "would not be out of place on a far-right conspiracy website", the Green Party has said, after the home secretary claimed multiculturalism had failed and urged for changes to the UN Refugee Convention.
Braverman's keynote speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC was widely panned by campaigners and politicians, after she questioned whether the convention was "fit for purpose" and said being gay or a woman and fearing discrimination should not necessarily qualify people for refugee status.
One of the starkest criticisms came from the Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay, who said: “This is a horrifying speech from a British home secretary that would not be out of place on a far-right conspiracy website. It is language straight out of the gutter that should have no place in a fair and compassionate society.
“The prime minister should have the decency and moral courage to sack the home secretary now.
“The international refugee convention has proved a cornerstone of protection for people around the world and serves as a reminder to every country of our shared obligations," he continued.
"We need a government that recognises its international responsibilities and sits down with its neighbours to work out how to create the safe, legal routes that enable people to seek asylum without risking their lives."
Sir Elton John joins wave of criticism over Braverman speech (Evening Standard)
Stating that multiculturalism had "failed", Braverman told attendees in DC: "We are living with the consequence of that failure today. You can see it play out on the streets of cities all over Europe. From Malmo, to Paris, Brussels, to Leicester.
"If people are not able to settle in our countries, and start to think of themselves as British, American, French, or German, then something is going badly wrong," she added
Her comments provoked a furious backlash, being branded "shameful" and "xenophobic" by campaigners and opposition members, but did receive the backing of a number of Tory MPs – with Conservative Scott Benton commenting that Braverman's speech was "spot on".
The UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, also dismissed the idea that the Refugee Convention was in need of reform, stating following the speech: "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."
Braverman's comments have certainly provoked a strong reaction. Yahoo rounds up a handful of them:
“Where individuals are at risk of persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, it is crucial that they are able to seek safety and protection. 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." - UNHCR
"What she was talking about was the importance of integrating people who come here into our communities, and I think that’s a really valid point. They came because they were fleeing persecution in other countries and they integrated into our society. I think what she is talking about is the scale of immigration.” - Cabinet minister Lucy Frazer, responding to a question about her own great grandparents coming to the UK as immigrants
"Suella Braverman’s speech today was desperate attempt to distract from her total failure to tackle Tories asylum chaos. No practical solutions, only ramped up rhetoric & looking for others to blame. Aimed at a Tory leadership contest not at finding answers for the country." - Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper
"We are very concerned about the UK home secretary’s comments stating how discrimination for being gay or a woman should not be reason enough to qualify for protection under international refugee laws. Nearly a third of all nations class LGBTQ+ people as criminals and homosexuality is still punishable by death in 11 countries. Dismissing the very real danger LGBTQ+ communities face risks further legitimising hate and violence against them." - Elton John Aids Foundation
"The implication that LGBTQ+ & women asylum seekers are using their identities to falsely claim asylum en masse is unhelpful & unsound when viewed alongside statistics which clearly show that the majority of claims are valid and made by those who are at serious risk of violence." - Stonewall
"When I was immigration minister I came across a number of cases when people had claimed to be gay, produced photographs of them and a sort of same-sex partner and it turned out on further investigation it was a sibling, it wasn’t a same-sex partner at all.” - Home Office minister Chris Philp