By Melanie Nathan, September 26, 2023
Today the U.K Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s speech at the American Enterprise Institute is nothing short of shocking. Here is Melanie Nathan from African Human Rights Coalition’s response:
African Human Rights Coalition Condemns Sec. Suella Braverman's remarks in the strongest terms as homophobic and xenophobic and as failing her moral responsibility for her political ambition. Please see further commentary below.
In her speech Braverman said:
"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." OF COURSE IT IS SUFFICIENT FOR GAY PEOPLE GIVEN THE EXTRAORDINARY GENOCIDAL CONDITIONS:
What Braverman fails to understand or purposely ignores is that there are 64 countries that have laws that criminalize homosexuality, nearly half of which, over 30, are in Africa. In some of these countries one's existence, innate sexuality, or mere identification is either criminalized and persecuted. There are also countries that do not criminalize but where LGBTQI+ people are in extreme danger of violent persecution.
She also accused the Refugee Convention of being outdated, ignoring its intention and critical standing in the world, for the most marginalized of minorities.
While her views are clearly a concomitant of her political ambitions, it is harmful and hurtful especially to LGBTQI+ refugees.
"Her decision to visit Washington, and make such a punchy speech, will inevitably be seen through the lens of her own leadership ambitions. She ran unsuccessfully for the Conservative leadership last summer and is a likely candidate to stand again should Rishi Sunak lose the next general election." (BBC)
Of course LGBTQI+ people are dramatically impacted by the mere notion that simply being gay is not a reason to seek asylum with regard to many countries of origin around the world. By way of example - in Ghana the new law before Parliament and likely to be enacted by the end of the year, proposes that by merely "holding out" to be LGBTQI+ people one commits an offense and should serve ten years in prison by way of punishment and sentence. This is only one country example.
Uganda- where gays are being hunted and charged under death penalty laws, by their own government and fellow community members. Merely being LGBTQI+ in this context is a significant violation of one's human rights and is persecutory in and of itself. Most people would not think it unreasonable to flee a country where their sexuality and gender identity is criminalized, where one can get the death penalty, and where the existence and in some cases no-existence of such laws licenses violence against a minority in untold proportion.
The UK asylum policy is failing as it is and is blocking access to asylum for many with a dramatic impact on LGBTQI+ asylum seekers who have been forcibly displaced by their country conditions. Instead of strengthening the laws as needed to better manage asylum cases under the UK's obligation in terms of the Convention, Braverman is continuing to stir up xenophobia and to attack the treaty that has served as the most profound resolution of the biggest refugee crisis of the last century.
This reflection and scapegoating is nothing short of homophobic and xenophobic.
This is further contextualized by the UK wanting to send migrants back to Africa, and others as well, to Rwanda, a country that viciously persecutes LGBTQI+ people, despite the fact that there is no specific criminalizing law.
UNHCR has strongly criticized the government's plan arguing it would "deny protection" to genuine refugees and was a "clear breach" of the Refugee Convention.
The Refugee Convention seeks to remedy the moral catastrophe of the Second World War – when people fleeing genocide were denied refuge and were returned to prison and death. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other forms of persecution remain widespread today – especially for gay people on the continent of Africa where there is a new trend to institutionalize violence, discrimination and persecution.
The protections of the Refugee Convention remain absolute and critical, The fact that the U.K. and other countries have failed in their local laws should not allow for the scapegoating of the Convention. Blocking asylum seekers is not a solution and is in flagrant disregard for the intention of the Convention, only serving to allow for the very immoral rejection of those forcibly displaced.
The way countries now already choose to reject and create policy against migrants fleeing violence and genocide deaths has already resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of migrants, worldwide. LGBTQI+ people among them.
Countries including the United States should focus on bolstering refugee resettlement, developing additional migration pathways, and supporting mechanisms to increase capacity to assess claims for protection. This is particularly critical for LGBTQI+ people at such a critical time. WAKe UP WORLD - we are failing and people who have political ambition such as the Bravermans, Abbots, De Santis, and Trumps of the world are allowing their ideas to have murderous catastrophic consequences. In the meantime the Presidential determination for admittance numbers for refugees for this coming year in the United States is again at 125,000 by President Joe Biden - a number that grossly underserves the need. And while we view this number - we must note that quotas were not even met for the past year. Perhaps the excuse being the Southern Border that seemingly overwhelms. In the meantime, we can do much better if we reevaluate and work for sensible solutions. With all that said, I cannot express enough how much we need special pathways and considerations in the US and UK and EU and Canada for LGBTQI+ migrants- not undermining "business as usual" which I assert is pathetic in and of itself.
What is the Refugee Convention?
The Convention was drawn up in 1951 and came into force three years later, during an era where millions were displaced across Europe after World War Two
It was originally drafted to focus specifically on Europe's post-war refugees - but a 1967 amendment removed the geographic and time limits included in the original text and made the Convention universal
The Convention provides an agreed definition of a refugee, establishes basic minimum standards for their treatment, and says that refugees should not be penalised for breaching immigration rules while fleeing
Its core principle is "non-refoulement" - which means refugees should not be returned or expelled from a country against their will if they fear for their life or freedom
Almost 150 countries have signed up to the Convention