For Grazia, Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy asks the Home Secretary to explain her claim that women and LGBTQ+ people should be denied refugee status despite discrimination.
‘How much should a person suffer before they are given “permission” to run away?’ That is the question I asked our Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, this week on Instagram after she argued that we should deny sanctuary to women and gay people who claim to be refugees because of their status. While their experiences might be ‘miserable’, she admits, Braverman seemingly thinks they should suck it up rather than come to the UK for help.
Last week marked the two-year anniversary of women and girls in Afghanistan being banned from accessing education. Since April, Amnesty International report more than a million Iranian women have received text messages warning that their vehicles could be confiscated after they were captured on camera without wearing headscarves. Around the world, 650 million women and girls are involved in forced marriage. The experience of the LGBTQ community internationally is also more than ‘miserable’ - three months ago, Uganda introduced the death penalty for being gay. Globally, same-sex relationships are still criminalised in seventy countries, with eleven following Uganda’s approach to sanction those convicted. In Rwanda - the country where the Home Secretary wants to send refugees from the UK - the LGBT community report arbitrary beatings and imprisonment as they have been accused of not sharing ‘Rwandan values’.
Despite the evidence of widespread harm, our current Government is determined to deny these people assistance. The Home Secretary has proposed the UK tear up the United Nations Refugee Convention, which is an international treaty created in response to the atrocities of the second world war. Signed by countries around the world, it committed us all to helping those in need to safety and sharing the burden of providing such assistance. It has saved the lives of millions, from Mo Farah to Albert Einstein to Rita Ora and Freddie Mercury. Braverman accused refugees of ‘shopping around for their preferred destination’, as if choosing a holiday and ‘pretending to be gay’ in order to gain refugee status in the UK. There is no evidence to support such statements, which clearly belittle those who make the impossible decision to leave their home countries because to stay is to risk their lives. In making such a claim, she also demeaned the reputation of the UK and our ability to speak up for human rights around the world.
Those living in daily fear of what life will bring simply because of who they are deserve better.
The backlog of 175,000 people waiting for a decision on whether they will be granted refugee status this year (up 44 per cent from last year) shows our asylum system is broken. Unable to work until their status is resolved, those seeking asylum face an impossible limbo. Rather than do her job and tackle that backlog or combatting those responsible for the human trafficking of refugees, the Home Secretary is threatening people with disease-ridden barges (her plan to house asylum seekers on a barge resulted in 39 people being removed from the vessel after the discovery of potentially deadly bacteria in the water system) and flying around the world promoting her future leadership ambitions through being controversial.
The real attention should be preventing the risk of harm, such a scheme is absolutely possible and manageable. Right now, 70% of refugees are going to our neighbouring countries and less than 1% come to the UK. So rather than scaremongering with baseless statements that demonise refugees, we urgently need an empathetic, informed reaction and approach to asylum. Above all, those living in daily fear of what life will bring simply because of who they are deserve better.