‘Cruel and inhumane’: Rishi Sunak’s anti-asylum plan universally condemned by LGBTQ+ activists

Prime minister Rishi Sunak stood behind a podium which reads 'stop the boats'

LGBTQ+ groups and activists alike have slammed Rishi Sunak and his government’s new asylum plan, which seeks to crack down on Channel migrant crossings, as “cruel” and “inhumane”. 

Unveiled on Tuesday (7 March) by prime minister Sunak and home secretary Suella Braverman, the proposed new legislation would see those who enter the UK illegally removed within 28 days and prevented from returning or claiming British citizenship in the future.

Addressing MPs in the House of Commons, Braverman said “make no mistake, this Conservative government, this Conservative prime minister will act now to stop the boats”. 

The proposals quickly came under fire for their anti-immigrant rhetoric and were blasted by the United Nations refugee agency as effectively an all-out ban on people seeking asylum in the UK. 

“The legislation, if passed, would amount to an asylum ban – extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection in the United Kingdom for those who arrive irregularly, no matter how genuine and compelling their claim may be, and with no consideration of their individual circumstances,” the United Nations high commissioner for refugees said in a critical statement

“The effect of the bill (in this form) would be to deny protection to many asylum-seekers in need of safety and protection, and even deny them the opportunity to put forward their case. 

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“This would be a clear breach of the Refugee Convention and would undermine a longstanding, humanitarian tradition of which the British people are rightly proud.” 

Rainbow Migration, a charity supporting LGBTQ+ people through the asylum process, described Rishi Sunak’s bill as both “inhumane” and “unworkable” in a statement on Twitter. 

The charity said: “We are devastated by this government’s announcement of yet another cruel asylum bill.

“This government is deliberately trying to punish people that have the right to seek safety in the UK.

“Instead of this heartless bill, this government should focus on creating a compassionate and caring asylum system that treats people with kindness.”

Political commentator Owen Jones likened the language of the announcement to anti-migration campaigns of the past.  

“This is what right-wing demagogues have done through history,” he stated, “When a country is in the grip of social crisis – when a society is unable to meet the basic needs of its citizens – they try to redirect our fury on to desperate people fleeing foreign lands.”

Kieran Aldred, head of policy at Stonewall said“The asylum policy announced by the UK Government yesterday is illegal and unworkable.

“It will result in LGBTQ+ people with the right to seek refuge in the UK having no safe or legal means to do so from their home country.

“Criminalising vulnerable people seeking asylum is counter to international law and puts individuals fleeing persecution at risk of further harm.

‘We know that LGBTQ+ people in many countries around the world currently face increasing persecution, imprisonment and threats of state-sanctioned violence. The UK Government should be ensuring that the system fairly processes LGBTQ+ asylum seekers’ claims.”

Feminist liberation group SpeakOutSister referenced a news story from 1938 which described German Jews as “pouring” into the UK. 

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” the group said. 

Tim Naor Hilton, the chief executive of Refugee Action, said the bill should “send a chill down all our spines” as Tories plan “to round up and jail thousands of people who have fled war, torture and persecution and remove people’s rights on a whim”. 

He said: “Most people who cross the Channel who claim asylum in the UK are not safe in their home country, no matter how much Ministers dehumanise them [sic] hateful and inflammatory language.”

“There’s a deep and glaring racism at the heart of the government’s refugee policy,” Hilton added, “that shuts and then locks the door on refugees from Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan and most of Asia.”