Suella Braverman condemned for ‘deeply disturbing’ comments about LGBTQ+ asylum seekers

Suella Braverman leaving Downing Street wearing a blue blouse.

Suella Braverman has been condemned for her “deeply disturbing” comments about LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.

The home secretary has faced backlash from the opposition, LGBTQ+ migrant advocacy groups and queer activists after The Times newspaper leaked details of a speech she is set to deliver to the American Enterprise Institute, in Washington DC, on Tuesday (26 September).

In the speech to the right-wing think tank, Braverman will argue that people are seeking asylum out of fear of discrimination rather than actual persecution, which, she will claim, has resulted in an expansion in the number of people qualifying.

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

“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.”

Suella Braverman accused of ‘scapegoating migrants’

Sebastian Rocca, the founder and chief executive of LGBTQ+ asylum charity Micro Rainbow, believes Braverman is trying to scapegoat migrants.

You may like to watch

“The comments made by the home secretary are deeply disturbing,” he told PinkNews.

“LGBTQI people often face death, imprisonment and violence. When they come to the UK to seek safety, they have to go through an asylum system that is re-traumatising and dehumanising. In addition, the standard of proof is very high.

“The system, as it is, is incredibly difficult. These comments seek to scapegoats migrants and LGBTQI people for political gain once again.”

Suella Braverman has been accused of descending into the sewer. (Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Rocca urged Braverman to instead focus on “creating a just and fair asylum system” that everyone can be proud of.

Rainbow Migration, another charity advocating for LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum, said they were appalled that the home secretary would “question the legitimacy of LGBTQI+ people claiming asylum in the UK”.

A spokesperson for the charity told PinkNews: “Many LGBTQI+ people who we support every day tell us how they faced life-threatening situations back home. For example, Adam was violently attacked in the street on several occasions by members of his community in Ghana because he was bisexual, and his partner was killed, and Miky’s brother threatened to kill him when he came out as a gay man in Azerbaijan.

“The government’s own statistics suggest that only two per cent of all asylum claims in 2022 included sexual orientation as a reason for needing protection. It is already the case that LGBTQI+ people must face a well-founded fear of persecution to qualify for refugee protection in the UK.”

A person holds up a sign reading 'Refugees welcome stop the far right' as a barge is set to house asylum seekers, including LGBTQ+ people, who came to the UK through what the government deems 'illegal' means
Activists have opposed Suella Braverman’s policies. (Getty)

Under the current system, these people are forced to “prove” their identity in order to get refugee status, the spokesperson added.

“Most of us welcome refugees and want to help people who are fleeing for their lives. The home secretary should stop her cruel rhetoric and instead create an asylum system that treats people with dignity and compassion.”

LGBTQ+ refugees could be sent to their deaths

There was also outcry within the ranks of the Labour Party. Braverman “wants to pretend that gay people are being granted asylum for trivial reasons”, claimed Diane Abbott, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

“There is no evidence of this,” she went on to say. “Instead, these claims are because the Tories are so far behind in the polls. But I do not believe public opinion will follow her descent into the sewer.”

Nadia Whittome, the Labour MP for Nottingham East, echoed that sentiment, saying: “In many countries, persecution of LGBTQ+ people is rife, while discriminatory laws mean they face prison or even the death penalty simply for being themselves.

“Those fleeing to the UK are already put through dehumanising ‘tests’ to prove their identity and are still regularly disbelieved by the Home Office. Braverman encouraging the international community to turn its back on LGBTQ+ refugees increases the risk that people are sent to their deaths.”

People hold up signs bringing awareness to the plight of LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum abroad including a sign reading 'silence is support for discrimination' and another reading 'LGBT refugees don't feel safe in the camps'
The home secretary’s “dangerous rhetoric” has been met with protests. (Getty)

Meanwhile, shadow women and equalities minister Anneliese Dodds wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that LGBTQ+ people make up a “tiny proportion” of asylum claims in the UK.

She described Braverman’s words as “dangerous rhetoric” and said the home secretary is “blaming everyone else for her failures”.

Since becoming home secretary, Braverman has made it her mission to prevent people seeking asylum in the UK – particularly those who arrive via means deemed “illegal” by the government, such as on a small boat or in the back of a lorry.

She previously faced criticism when she said it was her “dream” and her “obsession” to see migrants deported to Rwanda under a plan dreamed up by her predecessor, Priti Patel. The Court of Appeal ruled the plan is illegal.

Elsewhere, the government has sought to clamp down on migrants arriving in the UK with the Illegal Migration Act. Despite significant criticism from advocacy groups, the bill was passed into law, making it more difficult for people to seek asylum in the UK.