Chris Philp, a Home Office minister, was the government’s voice on news programmes this morning and he explained why the government was calling for a review of the UN refugee convention. He told Times Radio:
It does need to be looked at on an international basis because we’ve seen people use asylum claims who are essentially economic migrants, and we’ve also seen people shopping around between different countries to choose where to claim asylum.
And that’s not how the UN refugee convention was originally designed, it’s not designed to allow people to circulate in Europe for a number of years before deciding where to claim asylum and making dangerous and illegal journeys doing so.
He also said that some of the people who claim asylum in the UK on the grounds they face persecution for being gay were not telling the truth. He said:
When I was immigration minister, I came across a number of cases when people had claimed to be gay, produced photographs of them and a sort of same-sex partner and it turned out on further investigation it was a sibling, it wasn’t a same-sex partner at all.
But Philp also said: “People who are being persecuted for their sexuality should be protected.”
Three of the leading pro-Conservative papers have splashed on Suella Braverman’s speech today.
The Express has also published an article by Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, defending the UN refugee convention. He says:
Since it was established back in 1951, the convention has saved hundreds of thousands of lives – from those fleeing ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, torture in Zimbabwe or war in Syria and Ukraine.
These are people who have gone on to contribute to the richness of our communities – becoming friends, colleagues and neighbours. Paying taxes and playing by the rules they have become law abiding proud Britons
Today, instead of returning to the old days in which countries pulled up the draw bridge and turned their back on those whom they don’t want to offer protection to we must continue to safeguard the promise of safety.
Ben Bradshaw, a Labour former cabinet minister, has urged LGBTQ+ Conservatives to condemn Suella Braverman’s speech, in which she will say that Britain should not grant asylum to people who are simply fearful of persecution for being gay. Ben Quinn has the story.
Good morning. Suella Braverman, the home secretary, is in Washington today where she is going to deliver a speech that marks a significant escalation of her attempts to dismantle current laws protecting refugees. In part this is a personal crusade – Politico this morning says she is firing the starting gun for the next Conservative leadership contest, which is a reasonable take – but it is also government/party policy. What she is saying is consistent with the direction taken by Rishi Sunak.
The government passed the Illegal Immigration Act because it wants to establish the principle that people who arrive in the UK illegally on small boats have no right to claim asylum. The act has become law, but it has not been implemented yet because arguably it goes beyond what is allowed under international human rights law and and these issues have got to be resolved by the supreme court.
Braverman today is making a simple counter-proposal; if international law (specifically the United Nations 1951 refugee convention) is the problem, let’s just change it.
Extracts from the speech have been briefed in advance, and they show that Braverman is making a provocative argument, grounded in the theory that a convention drawn up more than 70 years ago does not work today.
Braverman will claim that almost 800 million people could claim the right to move to another country under the convention. She was criticised in March for telling MPs that there were 100 million people in the world who might qualify for asylum in the UK. (She did not say they were all heading for the Channel, but some people felt that was the message she was trying to convey.) Today she is using a figure almost eight times as large. She will reportedly say:
When the refugee convention was signed, it conferred protection on some two million people in Europe.
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.
I think most members of the public would recognise those fleeing a real risk of death, torture, oppression or violence, as in need of protection.
However, as case law has developed, what we have seen in practice is an interpretive shift away from ‘persecution’, in favour of something more akin to a definition of ‘discrimination’ …
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.
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.
Here is Rajeev Syal’s preview of the speech. We wil be covering the speech, and the reaction it is provoking, in full.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9am: The Liberal Democrats open the final day of their conference with debates on subjects including child maintenance and the nature crisis.
2.30pm: Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, gives his keynote speech at the end of his party’s conference.
3.30pm (UK time): Suella Braverman delivers her speech in Washington.
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