LONDON – The 70-year-old global system for protecting refugees is broken and needs to be replaced, Britain’s home secretary will declare on Tuesday, as she argues that fear of discrimination should no longer be a sufficient reason to grant asylum.
Suella Braverman, from the right of the UK’s ruling Conservatives and considered 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 for its time”, but that “We now live in a completely different time”.
The convention was introduced after World War II and sets minimum international standards for the treatment of refugees, including stating that they should not be returned to countries where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.
According to excerpts of his speech in the United States published in advance, Braverman will say that the convention “now confers the theoretical right to move to another country to at least 780 million people.”
And he will warn that world leaders “will not be able to sustain an asylum system if, in effect, simply being gay or a woman and fearing discrimination in your country of origin is enough to qualify for protection.”
Braverman’s comments have already sparked a backlash from refugee support groups.
Sonya Sceats, executive director 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 that of other survivors we treat in our therapy rooms. They also deserve precisely the same protection. “It is shameful that a liberal democracy like Britain would try to weaken the protection of this community.”
Laura Kyrke-Smith, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in the United Kingdom, noted that recent surveys show that two-thirds of British adults “believe the right to seek asylum should be upheld.”
The opposition Labor Party also criticized the speech, with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accusing Braverman of “resorting to grandstanding abroad and looking for someone else to blame” for problems with the system itself. UK asylum, which faces huge delays in processing applications. .
While in Washington, Braverman will also hold talks with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland to discuss migration and national security.