Suella Braverman's warning that 780 million people have the right to seek asylum

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Suella Braverman is to warn today that unless refugee rules are reformed some 780 million people will be eligible to claim asylum.

During a speech in Washington DC, the home secretary will declare the United Nations Refugee Convention 1951 as unfit for purpose in the modern age.

Addressing the American Enterprise Institute think-tank Ms Braverman will say that “simply being gay, a woman or fearful of discrimination” is now enough to qualify for protection.

She will also propose a roadmap for international co-operation to tackle the refugee crisis and argue for a tightening of the threshold for claiming asylum.

Describing the UN convention as “an incredible achievement of its age” she will add that "more than 70 years on, we now live in a completely different time.

“According to analysis by Nick Timothy and Karl Williams for the Centre for Policy Studies, it now confers the notional right to move to another country upon at least 780 million people.

“It is therefore incumbent upon politicians and thought leaders to ask whether the Refugee Convention, and the way it has come to be interpreted through our courts, is fit for our modern age. Or whether it is in need of reform.”

Ms Braverman will say: “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.

Suella Braverman arrives to meet Britain's Ambassador to the US

“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.”

She is expected to add: “The status quo, where people are able to travel through multiple safe countries, and even reside in safe countries for years, while they pick their preferred destination to claim asylum, is absurd and unsustainable.”

Ms Braverman has previously criticised the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) claiming it fettered the Government’s efforts to introduce tough policies such as the Rwanda scheme.

The chairman of campaign group Migration Watch UK welcomed the home secretary's tough stance.

Alp Mehmet said she was right to “call out the conventions” and suggested the UK should withdraw from both the ECHR and the Refugee Convention if reforms were not made.

But the Refugee Council warned the UK should be “addressing the real issues in the asylum system, such as the record backlog, and providing safe routes for those in need of protection” rather than tearing up agreements.

Migrants are picked up at sea by the RNLI while crossing the English Channel from France

Freedom from Torture chief executive Sonya Sceats said: “Having already trampled over international law with the Illegal Migration Act, it is shocking to see the Home Secretary imploring the US and other democracies to tear up treaties designed to protect human rights.

“This will make the world an even more dangerous place, and not just for torture survivors seeking safety, but for all of us.”

During her visit, Ms Braverman will meet US homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and attorney general Merrick Garland for talks on migration and national security.

Nearly 24,000 people have been detected crossing the English Channel in small boats this year so far, despite Rishi Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats”, though the number of crossings are down from 2022.

The Government’s plans to deal with high levels of unauthorised migration are currently stalled, with the Rwanda plan currently tied up in the courts, while attempts to accommodate 500 migrants on a barge off the Dorset coast are on pause after deadly bacteria Legionella was detected aboard.