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SUELLA BRAVERMAN was condemned for “shameful, cruel and dangerous” plans to overhaul international refugee conventions revealed in a speech in Washington today.
In the Trumpian address to right-wing think tank the American Enterprise Institute in the US capital, Ms Braverman claimed that millions of asylum-seekers are being incentivised to “try their luck” in a system that she said poses “an existential challenge for the political and cultural institutions of the West.”
The Home Secretary said fears of being branded racist or illiberal are hindering states from reforming the United Nations Refugee Convention.
“I reject the notion that a country cannot be expected to respect human rights if it is not signed up to an international human rights organisation,” she said.
Ms Braverman also referenced her own family background, saying some immigration is necessary but it needs to be controlled by states.
In pre-brief comments, she said that offering asylum to a person because they are gay, a woman or fearing discrimination in their home country is unsustainable.
Women for Refugee Women called Ms Braverman’s comments “absurd and outrageous.”
The group said in a statement: “The majority of women, including LGBTQ+ women, we support are survivors of persecution including gender-based abuse, sexual violence, rape, and other torture.”
It warned that the current asylum system already causes “huge harm” to these groups of people due to disbelief, a lack of understanding of their experiences and ongoing harmful detention.
“Braverman’s speech raises huge concerns and could have life or death consequences,” it added.
Action Aid UK chief executive Halima Begum said that failing to uphold the humanitarian duty to give refuge and safety to women in need is a “direct affront to gender equality and human rights.”
Freedom from Torture said that the Home Secretary should be focusing all her efforts on rebuilding Britain’s asylum system, adding: “We can’t change the words coming from this government, but we can change the message that survivors hear: refugees are always welcome here.”
Legal rights campaign group Liberty warns that threats to tear up international treaties are “extremely dangerous and undermine vital protections owed to people fleeing persecution – including LGBTQ+ people fearing for their lives.
“We must all reject this cruel rhetoric and protect our human rights.”
The Refugee Council said that international frameworks “exist to protect everyone,” adding: “All people fleeing persecution – including for their sexuality or beliefs – should have the right to safety.
“Standing up for our shared humanity is just as important today as it ever was.”
Amnesty International UK chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said: “What urgently needs to be addressed on the world stage is the glaring inequality of countries sharing responsibility for refugees, a matter in which the UK is severely lagging.
“Instead of making inflammatory speeches decrying the rights of people fleeing persecution and tyranny, Suella Braverman should focus on creating a functioning UK asylum system that tackles the massive backlog her policies have created, so as to be able to meet the limited refugee responsibilities that fall to the UK.”
Labour peer Alf Dubs, who arrived in Britain as a child fleeing the Nazis, said that the Home Secretary was “repeating the shameful policy that people should not be treated as refugees if they arrive here by boat.
“But she’s closed virtually all other means of arrival,” he said.
SNP justice and immigration spokesman Chris Stephens branded Ms Braverman’s comments “ignorant and offensive,” demanding she retract them and issue an apology.
And Scottish Greens justice equality spokeswoman Maggie Chapman called the comments “shameful and cruel.”
She said: “We can have a humane and welcoming system that is based on openness and solidarity, but it won’t come from a racist and reactionary Tory government or a Home Office that should have been abolished long ago.”
Shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds called the statements “dangerous rhetoric from a Home Secretary blaming everyone else for her failures.”
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