British Home Secretary Suella Braverman says LGBT, gender discrimination not grounds for asylum

British Home Secretary will tell a gathering at a U.S. think tank in Washington that it was time politicians and thought leaders take a look at whether the U.N. refugee convention and the way it is being interpreted in the courts fit the modern age or whether was in need of reform. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI

Sept. 26 (UPI) -- British Home Secretary Suella Braverman will tell an audience in Washington on Tuesday that protecting LGBT people and women fleeing discrimination is unsustainable and should not be considered grounds for asylum because it could lead to almost 800 million people moving to another country.

Braverman will make the claim in a speech to the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute arguing for changes to the 1951 U.N. refugee convention, according to excerpts briefed to British media in advance.

She is expected to say that the number of people on which the convention confers protection has risen from an original 2 million in Europe to conferring the right to move to another country upon "at least 780 million people," citing analysis from Britain's center-right Center for Policy Studies.

"It is therefore incumbent upon politicians and thought leaders to ask whether the refugee convention, and the way it has come to be interpreted through our courts, is fit for our modern age or whether it is in need of reform.

"I think most members of the public would recognize those fleeing a real risk of death, torture, oppression or violence, are in need of protection. However, as case law has developed, what we have seen in practice is an interpretive shift away from 'persecution', in favor of something more akin to a definition of 'discrimination,'" Braverman will say.

"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."

Braverman's comments came in for strong criticism from human rights groups and the Labor opposition.

"LGBTQI+ people are tortured in many countries for who they are and who they love, and their pain is no less than other survivors we treat in our therapy rooms," said Freedom from Torture chief executive Sonya Sceats.

"They deserve precisely the same protection too. For a liberal democracy like Britain to try to weaken protection for this community is shameful."

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper accused Braverman of ramping up the rhetoric making it harder for Britain to work with other countries on the issue and "chasing headlines abroad to try and distract from her total failure to tackle Tory asylum chaos at home."

"International conventions aren't responsible for appalling Tory failures to go after the criminal smuggling gangs, to take asylum decisions or clear the backlog," she wrote on social media. "Those failures are the responsibility of [Prime Minister] Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman.

"We need more international cooperation to stop smugglers and trafficking gangs, establish return agreements and make sure countries work together to ensure those fleeing persecution and conflict get sanctuary. But Braverman rhetoric makes it harder to get countries to work with us."

Braverman has been forging ahead with a series of controversial immigration and asylum policies -- most of which are stalled -- from accommodating asylum seekers on barges instead of costly hotels to trying to push through a scheme launched by her predecessor, Priti Patel, to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing.

The first part of the scheme, the Illegal Migration Act under which asylum seekers who arrive without permission will be detained and deported to their own or a "third safe country", passed into law in July, but the Rwanda policy is stalled in the courts which have ruled that Rwanda is not a safe country.

Britain currently has no similar arrangement with any other country, meaning removals are on hold indefinitely.