Friday, 8 Dec 2023

Anger as Braverman says asylum seekers 'pretend to be gay for special treatment'

Suella Braverman has drawn criticism after claiming some asylum seekers ‘pretend to be gay’ to get ‘special treatment’.

Her controversial comments follow a trip to the US and a speech she made on Tuesday where she called for the UN’s asylum framework to be reformed.

During the speech she said while there are many countries where being gay or a woman is ‘incredibly tough’, ‘being a victim of discrimination shouldn’t necessarily qualify you for asylum protection in the UK’.

Ms Braverman said there are ‘many instances’ where people pretend to be gay to receive ‘preferential treatment’, saying that is not ‘fair’ or ‘right’.

According to Home Office data, sexual orientation formed part of the basis for an asylum claim in 1% of all applications in 2021.

That was 77% fewer than in 2019, when sexual orientation made up 5% of all applications, and 7% in 2017.

In an interview with ITV News due to air in full later this evening, Ms Braverman was asked about Elton John and his foundation’s response to her speech.

He warned she risked ‘further legitimising hate and violence’ against LGBTQ people and called for ‘more compassion’.

When asked by Robert Peston about Sir Elton’s response to her speech, she replied: ‘Well, I have huge admiration for Elton John, but what I would say is that we need to be, again, honest about what’s actually happening on the ground.

‘And as I said in my speech, we need to be clear about what constitutes persecution.

‘Persecution is where people are being tortured, where they are receiving ill treatment, where they are having their human rights violated in a monstrous and grotesque way.

‘And of course, we want to welcome people fleeing persecution to the UK. That’s not the same as discrimination, and I fully acknowledge that it is miserable and incredibly tough around parts of the world to be gay or to be a woman.

‘Being a victim of discrimination shouldn’t necessarily qualify you for asylum protection in the UK.’

On whether she has any evidence that people are ‘gaming the system’, she said: ‘Well, what we see operationally is that people do game the system.

‘They come to the UK, they purport to be homosexual in the effort to game our system, in the effort to get special treatment. That’s not fair and it’s not right.

‘I’m afraid we do see many instances where people purport to be gay when they’re not actually gay, but in order to get special treatment. It’s not the way our asylum system should work.’

Challenging the Home Secretary’s claims, gay Labour MP and former minster Sir Chris Bryant wrote on Twitter: ‘How many? Where’s your evidence? And how dare you scurry behind the apron strings of prejudice to hide the fact that you’ve manifestly failed to deal with the asylum mess you and your party created.’

Journalist and commentator Owen Jones said: ‘Suella Braverman is a monster who becomes more nauseating by the day, and what she says here is the exact opposite of the truth.

‘Britain deports LGBTQ refugees to countries which endanger their safety and their lives. That’s a fact.’

Actor Ian McKellen told Channel 4 News her comments are ‘laced with a good dollop of prejudice and hoping that she’s going to get a few votes because of it’.

LGBT charity Stonewall said: ‘The implication that LGBTQ and women asylum seekers are using their identities to falsely claim asylum en masse is unhelpful and unsound when viewed alongside statistics which clearly show that the majority of claims are valid and made by those who are at serious risk of violence.’

Meanwhile, Sonya Sceats, chief executive at Freedom from Torture, said: ‘LGBTQ people are tortured in many countries for who they are and who they love, and their pain is no less than other survivors we treat in our therapy rooms.

‘They deserve precisely the same protection too.

‘For a liberal democracy like Britain to try to weaken protection for this community is shameful.’

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