British Official: Anti-LGBTQ+ Bias Not Enough to Grant Refugee Status
Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.
Suella Braverman, the British Home Secretary, was reportedly set to address a right-wing U.S. think tank that anti-LGBTQ+ bias isn't sufficient grounds to grant asylum to refugees fleeing oppressive regimes.
The BBC reported that in an address to "the right-wing American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC," Braverman "will question whether the application of the UN's 1951 Refugee Convention is 'fit for our modern age.'"
The article relayed that Braverman's remarks are expected to include the claim that "what we have seen in practice is an interpretive shift away from 'persecution,' in favor of something more akin to a definition of 'discrimination'.... And a similar shift away from a 'well-founded fear' toward a 'credible' or 'plausible fear.'"
The BBC added that Braverman's anticipated remarks are expected to also claim that the "practical consequence" of the putative shift "has been to expand the number of those who may qualify for asylum, and to lower the threshold for doing so."
A right-wing British think tank estimates that the way the Refugee Convention is applied now gives "780 million people worldwide to move to another country," though, the BBC noted, "According to the UN the total number of refugees worldwide is much lower, with 35 million people registered as refugees in 2022."
The BBC noted that among those to whom the Convention would, in theory, grant refugee status is "everyone in Afghanistan other than the Taliban..."
The expected remarks from the British Home Secretary echo comments made Sept. 26 by British Police Minister Chris Philp, who posited in remarks to the BBC that the convention is "being used by essentially economic migrants to try and claim asylum to move between countries," the BBC relayed.
The article quoted further from the speech that Braverman was expected to deliver: "Let me be clear, there are vast swathes of the world where it is extremely difficult to be gay, or to be a woman. 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."
Braverman's address drew criticism from fellow British officials. The BBC quoted Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper as saying that Braverman was "resorting to grandstanding abroad and looking for anyone else to blame."
There are a number of countries in which the risks for women and LGBTQ+ people are grave, including Iran – where a more stringent version of a national law imposing the wearing of head scarves by women was recently passed in response to widespread protests – and Afghanistan, where the Taliban has restricted education for girls.
In the Russian republic of Chechnya, anti-LGBTQ+ animus is so virulent that even straight people can get caught up in police actions targeting gays. One straight man, Salman Mukaev, was recently reportedly arrested, tortured, and pressured to work with police in identifying and luring gay men. When he fled the country, he was prevented from leaving Armenia despite having been offered asylum in a European country, and faced deportation back to Russia.
"The Refugee Convention was drawn up following World War Two, " the BBC noted, "and has at its centre the principle that refugees should not be returned to countries where they face threats to their life or freedom."
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.