Suella Braverman has been accused of “dog-whistle” politics by a senior patron of LGBT+ Conservatives before a speech in which she will say that Britain should not grant asylum to people who simply express a fear of discrimination for being gay.
Comments the home secretary’s office said she would make were drawing criticism even before her speech to a rightwing US thinktank, and Labour challenged Conservative LGBT+ MPs and others to condemn the remarks.
Speaking to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, Braverman will argue that the UN’s 1951 refugee convention must be reformed to tackle a worldwide migration crisis.
She will argue that case law arising from the convention has lowered the threshold so that asylum seekers need only prove that they face “discrimination” instead of a real risk of torture, death or violence.
She will say the change has increased the number of those who may qualify for asylum to “unsustainable” levels, adding: “Let me be clear, there are vast swathes of the world where it is extremely difficult to be gay, or to be a woman.”
“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,” she will say, in pre-briefed comments that have already drawn fire.
Andrew Boff, a Conservative London Assembly member and patron of the LGBT+ Conservative group, said Braverman should stop engaging in “dog whistle” politics and focus on the “basket case” that was her department.
“Talking about the victims of persecution as if they are the problem is incredibly unhelpful and really paints us an an uncaring party. I’m deeply unhappy with it.”
“We have a proud record when it comes to gay rights, on things like HIV and equal marriage. I don’t want us to become one of those parties like Fidesz,” he added, referring to Hungary’s ruling party, which has become steadily more socially conservative and authoritarian.
The Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw, said on Twitter: “Any LGBT or other Tories prepared to condemn Braverman for this? She doesn’t seem to grasp that simply being gay is enough to result in persecution or death in many countries.”
Any LGBT or other Tories prepared to condemn Braverman for this? She doesn’t seem to grasp that simply being gay is enough to result in persecution or death in many countries https://t.co/WP2kk3D1a5
— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) September 26, 2023
However, Michael Fabricant, a Tory MP and another patron of the Conservative LGBT+ group, said that claiming to be gay “should not provide the key to entry to our country”.
“It’s unwise to make broad generalisations. If someone claims to be gay in order to seek asylum, that should not lift the bar to entry to the UK,” he said.
“However, if someone has experienced persecution from the country from which they are escaping, it presents a different and far more persuasive case. Each application should be considered carefully on its merits.”
The police minister, Chris Philp, told broadcasters that the UN’s refugee convention needed a rethink because people were using it to claim asylum on the basis of persecution they did not face.
He told Times Radio:“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,” he added.
Gideon Rabinowitz, director of policy and advocacy at Bond, an umbrella body for UK NGOs, said Braverman was engaging in “divisive and dangerous” rhetoric after the number of LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum-seekers globally had increased in recent decades.