UK’s Suella Braverman says LGBTQ persecution not enough for asylum claims

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LONDON — The 70-year-old global system for protecting refugees is broken and needs replacing, Britain’s home secretary is set to declare Tuesday — as she argues fear of discrimination should no longer be sufficient grounds for granting asylum.

Suella Braverman, on the right of the U.K.’s governing Conservatives and seen as a leading candidate for the party’s next leader, will tell the American Enterprise Institute think tank that the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention “was an incredible achievement of its age,” but that “we now live in a completely different time.”

The convention was introduced following World War II and sets minimum international standards for the treatment of refugees, including asserting that they should not be returned to countries where they face serious threats to life or liberty.

According to extracts of her U.S. address released in advance, Braverman will say that the convention “now confers the notional right to move to another country upon at least 780 million people.”

And she will warn that world leaders “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.” 

Braverman’s comments have already sparked a backlash from refugee support groups.

Sonya Sceats, chief executive of the NGO Freedom from Torture, said: “LGBTQI+ people are tortured in many countries for who they are and who they love, and their pain is no less than other survivors we treat in our therapy rooms. They deserve precisely the same protection too. For a liberal democracy like Britain to try to weaken protection for this community is shameful.” 

Laura Kyrke-Smith, U.K. executive director of the International Rescue Committee, pointed to recent polling showing two-thirds of British adults “believe that the right to seek asylum should be upheld.”

The opposition Labour Party also hit out at the speech, with Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper accusing Braverman of “resorting to grandstanding abroad and looking for anyone else to blame” for problems with the U.K.’s own asylum system, which is facing huge backlogs in processing claims.

While in Washington, Braverman will also hold talks with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland to discuss migration and national security.