The country’s Interior Minister questions the foundations of modern asylum law during a speech in Washington.
Suella Braverman questioned the United Nations Refugee Convention in a speech in Washington, arguing that “the simple fact of being gay or a woman” should not in itself be grounds for international protection.
The British government has made the fight against illegal immigration a priority.
With a general election due next year, which the opposition Labor party is widely tipped to win, the Conservative rulers’ stance against asylum seekers is becoming increasingly tougher.
Some Labor politicians claim the Conservatives are scapegoating vulnerable groups to distract from their own failings in government.
Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, the UK Home Secretary questioned the role of the 1951 Geneva Convention, which defines refugee status.
He said it was an incredible achievement for its time “but now we live in a totally different era.”
The right-winger added that it is up to political leaders to ask whether the convention, and the way it has been interpreted by the courts, is appropriate for “modern times.”
“Let me be clear: There are vast areas of the world where it is extremely difficult to be gay or to be a woman,” she said. “When people are being persecuted, it is right that we offer refuge. But we will not be able to sustain an asylum system if in practice simply being gay or a woman and fearing discrimination in your country of origin is enough to qualify. For protection.”
In 12 countries around the world, people can be sentenced to death for having a same-sex relationship, while in 66 states private, consensual same-sex sexual activity is criminalized, according to the Trust in human dignity.
Braverman called the current situation “absurd and unsustainable” and stated that it allows immigrants to “choose their preferred destination to request asylum.”
“No one entering the United Kingdom by ship from France is fleeing imminent danger,” the text of the speech continues.
Yvette Cooper of the Labor Party accused Braverman of having “given up on fixing the chaos caused by the Conservatives” on asylum rights and of looking for “others to blame.”
Under the Conservative government, the number of people in the UK asylum system has reached record levels.
Experts say one of the reasons for this is that officials did not process applications in a timely manner, causing a huge backlog to build up.
In a statement, the Refugee Council said the British government should “address the real problems facing the asylum system and provide safe routes for people who need protection” rather than attacking the Geneva Convention.
Created after the devastation of World War II, the 1951 Geneva Convention is an international treaty that established refugee rights and protections, with the goal of providing shelter and support to those fleeing persecution and violence.
The British government has vowed to stop migrant boats from crossing the English Channel from France.
The law now prohibits migrants who have arrived in the UK illegally from applying for asylum. The government wants to deport them to third countries like Rwanda, a project currently blocked by the courts.