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Home Secretary to call for redefinition of refugee: “Nobody who crosses the Channel in a small boat should be treated as a refugee”

“Nobody entering the UK by boat from France is fleeing imminent peril. None of them have ‘good cause’ for illegal entry,” Suella Braverman will say in a speech in Washington later today.

Braverman will also say that fearing discrimination on the basis of being gay or a woman should not by itself be enough to qualify for being a refugee.

The Home Secretary will argue for a narrower definition of the term “refugee” since the way in which asylum seekers “shop around” for their “preferred destination” in Europe is “absurd and unsustainable”.

Braverman will say: “The vast majority have passed through multiple safe countries, and in some instances have resided in safe countries for several years.

“In this sense, there is an argument that they should cease to be treated as refugees when considering the legitimacy of their onward movement.”

She will also say that the convention is outdated and “we now live in a completely different time”.

According to figures compiled by the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, 108 million people were forcibly displaced last year as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations.

The Home Secretary was greeted by Dame Karen Pierce as she arrived in the United States for a three day visit.

Citing Article 1 of the convention which defines the term “refugee” as applying to those who have a “well-founded fear” of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and who cannot safely reside in the country of their nationality, Braverman will say that there has been a shift away from a “well-founded fear” towards a “credible” or “plausible fear” and this has resulted in a significant expansion in the number of those who may qualify for asylum and an ever lower threshold.

“Let me be clear, there are vast swathes of the world where it is extremely difficult to be gay, or to be a woman,” the home secretary will say.

“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.”

The Rainbow Migration charity commented on Braverman’s speech: “We are appalled to hear that the home secretary is questioning the legitimacy of LGBTQI+ people claiming asylum in the UK.

“The government’s own statistics suggest that only 2 per cent of all asylum claims in 2022 included sexual orientation as a reason for needing protection. It is already the case that LGBTQI+ people must face a well-founded fear of persecution to qualify for refugee protection in the UK.”

Laura Kyrke-Smith, UK chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, said: “The Refugee Convention has withstood the test of time and remains the right international legal framework for the UK’s refugee and asylum policy. It does not mandate people to seek asylum in the first safe country that they arrive in.

“The government should focus its efforts on processing asylum claims quickly and fairly, and establishing safe alternative routes to claim asylum. There are pragmatic ways to stop the small boats crossing the Channel, without taking aim at the Refugee Convention.”

(Source: The Times, edited)

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