UK

Braverman: No migrants crossing the Channel are in imminent peril

Home Secretary Suella Braverman will give a speech in the US calling for reform of the UN Refugee Convention (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Home Secretary Suella Braverman will give a speech in the US calling for reform of the UN Refugee Convention (Stefan Rousseau/PA) Home Secretary Suella Braverman will give a speech in the US calling for reform of the UN Refugee Convention (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Suella Braverman will use a speech in the US to declare that no migrant crossing the Channel to Britain is in “imminent peril”.

The Home Secretary is expected to say that “seeking asylum and seeking better economic prospects are not the same thing” as she takes aim at the United Nations’ Refugee Convention.

The Cabinet minister is tasked with helping to deliver the Prime Minister’s pledge of stopping the boats from crossing the Channel — one of five that Rishi Sunak hopes to deliver ahead of a likely election next year.

Mrs Braverman will tell a Washington DC audience on Tuesday that offering asylum to a person because they are gay, a woman or fearing discrimination in their home country is not sustainable.

She will highlight that the UK and the US, among others, interpret the 1951 UN convention’s stipulation for refugees to “present themselves without delay to the authorities” as meaning that “people should seek refuge and claim asylum in the first safe country that they reach” — something she will argue is not always happening.

In a pre-briefed extract of her speech, Mrs Braverman will say: “The status quo, where people are able to travel through multiple safe countries, and even reside in safe countries for years, while they pick their preferred destination to claim asylum, is absurd and unsustainable.

“Nobody entering the UK by boat from France is fleeing imminent peril. None of them have ‘good cause’ for illegal entry.

“The vast majority have passed through multiple safe countries, and in some instances have resided in safe countries for several years.

“In this sense, there is an argument that they should cease to be treated as refugees when considering the legitimacy of their onward movement.”

The senior Conservative’s speech comes against the backdrop of almost 24,000 migrants arriving into the UK via small boat since January.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Migrant Channel crossing incidents Almost 24,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the UK since January (Gareth Fuller/PA)

That figure, based on official Home Office data, is likely to rise after fresh arrivals were spotted on the south coast of England early on Tuesday.

The Government’s plans to deal with high levels of unauthorised migration are currently stalled.

The Illegal Migration Act legislated for those arriving via the Channel to be deported to their country of origin, or to Rwanda after ministers struck a deal with the east African country.

But the Kigali plan is tied up in the courts, with a deportation flight yet to take off.

The Home Secretary has previously taken aim at the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), signed in 1950, claiming it restricted the Government’s efforts to introduce policies such as the Rwanda scheme.

In her speech to the American Enterprise Institute, a centre-right think tank in Washington DC, she will set out a blueprint for international efforts to tackle the refugee crisis.

Ms Braverman is set to describe the UN convention as “an incredible achievement of its age” but will ask if it is “in need of reform” seven decades after being signed.

She will say research indicates that the accord “now confers the notional right to move to another country upon at least 780 million people”.

She will also argue that tests for how refugees are defined have changed, lowering the threshold for claiming asylum.

Ms Braverman will say: “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.”

Labour accused the Conservatives of looking to blame the convention for its immigration failures.

Anneliese Dodds, the Labour Party chairwoman, told GB News: “International conventions are not the reason why the Conservative Government is failing in particular to take action against the international people-smuggling gangs.”

Highlighting that the Home Office is spending about £8 million per day on hotels for asylum seekers, Ms Dodds added: “I’m afraid the responsibility for all of this lies squarely with the Conservative Government.

“We’ve seen convictions for people smugglers go down considerably under the Conservatives, we’ve seen the rate of returns of people whose applications have failed also going down precipitously by 70%.”

Ben Bradshaw, a gay Labour MP and former cabinet minister, took aim at Mrs Braverman over her comments, pointing out that being homosexual in some countries can have deadly risks.

He tweeted: “Any LGBT or other Tories prepared to condemn Braverman for this?

“She doesn’t seem to grasp that simply being gay is enough to result in persecution or death in many countries.”

But Chris Philp, a minister in Mrs Braverman’s Home Office, appeared to double down on the comments, claiming some people falsely claim to be persecuted and “some people claim to be gay when they’re not”.

He told Times Radio: “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.”