Elton John calls for ‘compassion’ for LGBTQ+ refugees after ‘disturbing’ Suella Braverman speech

Elton John stands on stage wearing a gold suit

Elton John has called for compassion and acceptance after home secretary Suella Braverman was criticised for making “deeply disturbing” comments about LGBTQ+ asylum seekers

Braverman faced a backlash after The Times leaked details ahead of a speech she delivered in Washington DC on Tuesday (26 September), in which she argued that a fear of discrimination should not be a good enough reason to be granted asylum in the UK.

“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 said in the speech to members of the right-wing think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

“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.”

Her statements have been fiercely criticised, with LGBTQ+ asylum charities labelling her claims “deeply disturbing” and a member of her own party describing the comments as “victim-blaming”

Now, singing superstar Elton has condemned the home secretary, pointing out that it is still illegal to be gay in large parts of the world, and calling for compassion and acceptance. 

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“We are very concerned about the home secretary’s comments stating how discrimination for being gay or a woman should not be reason enough to qualify for protection under international refugee laws,” a joint statement from the Elton John Aids Foundation, Elton and his husband, David Furnish, read. 

“Nearly a third of all nations class LGBTQ+ people as criminals, and homosexuality is still punishable by death in 11 countries. Dismissing the very real danger LGBTQ+ communities face risks further legitimising hate and violence against them.

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“Leaders need to provide more compassion, support and acceptance for those seeking a safer future.”

Currently, it is illegal to be LGBTQ+ in 64 UN member states. According to a database by ILGA World, the death penalty is imposed in Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, while the same punishment remains possible in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia and the United Arab Emirates.

Suella Braverman pictured leaving a weekly Cabinet meeting.
Elton John has condemned home secretary Suella Braverman over her comments about LGBTQ+ asylum seekers. (Getty)

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also hit out at Braverman’s speech, taking note of a section in which she publically criticised the 1951 Refugee Convention, claiming it was no longer fit for purpose, and suggesting that the UK government would do “whatever is required” to tackle the issue of migrants arriving in the country “illegally”, even if it meant leaving the agreement.

The UNHCR told BBC News: “The need is not for reform or more restrictive interpretation, but for stronger and more consistent application of the convention and its underlying principle of responsibility-sharing.

“Where individuals are at risk of persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, it is crucial that they are able to seek safety and protection.”

The convention provides the internationally recognised definition of a refugee and outlines the legal protection, rights and assistance they are entitled to receive. 

A core principle asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.

The UNHCR added that leaving the convention would not be an answer to the UK’s asylum backlog. Last month, the Home Office released statistics that revealed a record-high number of asylum seekers, with 175,000 applications waiting to be decided.

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“An appropriate response to the increase in arrivals and to the UK’s asylum backlog would include strengthening and expediting decision-making procedures,” the UNHCR said.

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