LGBTQ+ groups condemn ‘cruel’ Suella Braverman after home secretary declares war on refugees

Suella Braverman speaking at a Tory lectern

LGBTQ+ migrant advocacy groups have denounced Suella Braverman’s “cruel” promise to carry out the UK government’s “dangerous” Rwanda asylum plan. 

Braverman, in her first speech as home secretary, promised to stop migrant crossings at the English Channel to an audience gathered for the Conservative Party conference on Tuesday (4 October). 

“This has gone on for too long,” Braverman said. “The problem is chronic. Organised criminal gangs are selling a lie to thousands of people. 

“Many are leaving a safe country like France and abusing our asylum system.”

Braverman vowed to bring forward legislation that will “make it clear that the only route” to the UK is “through a safe and legal route”.

She promised to “find a way to make the Rwanda scheme work” – referring to her predecessor Priti Patel’s much-condemned plan to “offshore” asylum seekers deemed illegal to the east African nation.

Home secretary Suella Braverman wears a blue outfit as she speaks at the conservative party conference

Suella Braverman said migrants who enter the UK via the English Channel “should be swiftly returned” to their “home country or relocated to Rwanda”. (Getty)

The Rwanda policy faced immense backlash and legal challenges after it was annouced, and campaigners warned it could result in the deaths of LGBTQ+ refugees. Over 170 organisations – including Stonewall, Rainbow Migration, Micro Rainbow and Greenpeace UK – called on the government in April to scrap the “cruel” and “immoral” policy. 

After Braverman’s speech, Sonia Lenegan, legal and policy director for Rainbow Migration, said she was “filled with horror”.

She urged the home secretary to “reconsider and reserve her approach”, noting that the UK had “proudly” announced how it helped 29 Afghan refugees find safety in the UK almost exactly a year ago. Others fleeing Afghanistan would be targeted by the very policy Braverman is now touting.

“Due to the lack of other options, the number of people from Afghanistan who arrive in the UK via the Channel has increased significantly,” Lenegan said.

“If there are no formal routes open and accessible to those who need them, then people will be forced to travel however they can in order to get here.”

“A person is no less a refugee because they were unable to access a safe route to come here, and it is morally despicable to suggest otherwise.”

In 2021, approximately 28,526 people travelled this route to seek a life in the UK compared to 8,404 in 2020. So far, more than 33,573 people have arrived in the UK this year after making the journey across the Channel in small boats. This was the highest number since these figures began to be collected in 2018, according to the BBC

Activists demonstrate against the Rwanda deportation proposals by the UK government and current home secretary Suella Braverman

Campaigners have denounced proposals by the UK government to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda. (Getty)

Lenegan explained that Rainbow Migration has assisted several people from Iran and Iraq who arrived via the Channel this year and that there is “no resettlement option on offer from the UK to LGBTQ+ people from either of these countries”. 

Sebastian Rocca, CEO of Micro Rainbow, told PinkNews that he is “deeply concerned and terrified” that Braverman might be considering taking away a vital “lifeline” for LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution.

“Where is the government compassion in sending a gay refugee back to Iran for example where he is likely to face death just because he crossed the channel?” Rocca said. 

Rocca described Braverman’s “intentions” as “cruel”, and said she is following in Patel’s “despicable legacy” by “insisting to make the Rwanda policy work”.

He continued: “I truly believe that Suella Braverman does not represent the majority of British people.”

The government’s Rwanda plan fell apart before the first flight could even take off in June after the European Court of Human Rights intervened. The first High Court challenge over the Rwanda deal was heard in September, and a second hearing will begin in October. 

Suella Braverman doubled down on her promises to see the Rwanda asylum plan through in a fringe event at the Tory party conference in Birmingham. She said it was her “dream” and personal “obsession” to see a flight take asylum seekers to Rwanda before Christmas.