Suella Braverman: LGBTQ+ refugees’ fear of persecution ‘insufficient’ for UK asylum

Suella Braverman in the House of Commons

Home Secretary Suella Braverman reportedly believes that fearing discrimination for being gay or a woman is not enough to qualify for asylum under international refugee laws.

Braverman is set to give a talk on Tuesday (26 September) at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, about her hopes to crack down on asylum seekers and migration at large.

In a speech seen by The Times, Braverman will argue in favour of an overhaul of the supposedly outdated 1951 UN Refugee Convention, signed by 146 countries, insisting that we “now live in a completely different time.”

Braverman will warn of a recent influx in the number of people who may qualify for asylum thanks to shifts away from the term “well-founded fear” in favour of terms like “credible” or “plausible fear.”

Suella Braverman outside the black no 10 door
Braverman doesn’t believe fearing persecution for being gay is enough of a reason to seek asylum in the UK. (Getty)

This, it would seem, is directed at those who seek asylum due to fears of discrimination and other dangers because of their sexuality or gender.

“Let me be clear, there are vast swathes of the world where it is extremely difficult to be gay, or to be a woman,” her speech reads.

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“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.”

Responding to the claims in Braverman’s upcoming speech, a spokesperson from the Rainbow Migration charity told The Times: “We are appalled to hear that the home secretary is questioning the legitimacy of LGBTQI+ people claiming asylum in the UK.

“The government’s own statistics suggest that only 2 per cent of all asylum claims in 2022 included sexual orientation as a reason for needing protection. 

UK home secretary Suella Braverman wears a blue outfit and silver necklace as she steps outside. LGBTQ+ and human rights campaigners have criticised Braverman for her comments about asylum seekers
Braverman will warn of a recent influx in the number of people who may qualify for asylum. (Getty)

“It is already the case that LGBTQI+ people must face a well-founded fear of persecution to qualify for refugee protection in the UK.”

Braverman’s hateful speech comes as data from the Home Office reveals an 89 per cent increase in the number of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who applied for asylum in the UK based on sexual orientation from 2021 to 2022.

Claims which included sexual orientation as part of the basis for seeking asylum made up just two per cent of the total number of asylum seekers in 2022. And, of those applications for asylum based on sexual orientation, 739 people were granted asylum or other forms of leave for this reason – a nine per cent rise from 2021.

These applications for asylum based on sexual orientation come from people in countries with harsh, often life-threatening anti-LGBTQ+ laws like Uganda or Pakistan.

While Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill imposes the death penalty for queer people found guilty in so-called “aggravated” cases, while in Pakistan, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by life imprisonment.

Despite those very real threats to people desperately seeking asylum in the UK, it wouldn’t be unlike Braverman to dismiss the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people while trying to enforce her draconian policies.

Just earlier this month, Braverman called out police officials in the UK for working at LGBTQ+ Pride events over the summer.

The home secretary told the Commons that police chiefs and elected officials were not being paid to “dance with drag queens”.

“They are there to keep people safe. We do not pay them to wave flags at parades, to dance with drag queens or to campaign,” she said.

“That’s why I finally ended all association with Stonewall at the Home Office and why I expect all PCCs (police and crime commissioners) and chief constables to focus on cutting crime and rebuilding confidence, not playing politics.”

Braverman has ordered a review into the “political activism of police” as a result of their perceived allegiance with the LGBTQ+ community.

That’s despite an independent review into the Met Police earlier this year that found it to be institutionally racist, misogynistic, and homophobic.In a formal apology issued in June, the head of London’s Metropolitan Police apologised to the LGBTQ+ community for their past failings and promised to restore LGBTQ+ community liaison officers across the city. But this might be a step too far in Braverman’s books.