Asylum seekers pretend to be gay to ‘get special treatment’, says Home Secretary

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said some asylum seekers pretend to be gay to ‘game the system’ (Danny Lawson/PA)
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said some asylum seekers pretend to be gay to ‘game the system’ (Danny Lawson/PA)

Asylum seekers pretend to be gay to “game the system” and to get “special treatment”, the Home Secretary has said.

Suella Braverman insisted there are “many instances” where people purport to be homosexual to receive preferential treatment in asylum applications and that the situation is not “fair” or “right”.

The Home Secretary’s comments come during her trip to Washington DC and after she delivered a speech on Tuesday questioning whether the application of the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention is “fit for our modern age”.

She also argued discrimination for being gay or a woman should not be enough to qualify for international refugee protection, sparking a backlash from human rights activists, LGBT advocates, and prominent public figures such as singer Sir Elton John.

Sir Elton warned Ms Braverman risked “further legitimising hate and violence” against LGBT people and calling for “more compassion”.

In an interview with ITV News, due to air in full on the Peston programme on Wednesday night, the Home Secretary doubled down on her claims.

Asked about Sir Elton’s response to her speech, she said: “Well, I have huge admiration for Elton John, but what I would say is that we need to be, again, honest about what’s actually happening on the ground.

“And as I said in my speech, we need to be clear about what constitutes persecution. Persecution is where people are being tortured, where they are receiving ill treatment, where they are having their human rights violated in a monstrous and grotesque way …”

She added: “And of course, we want to welcome people fleeing persecution to the UK. That’s not the same as discrimination, and I fully acknowledge that it is miserable and incredibly tough around parts of the world to be gay or to be a woman.

“Being a victim of discrimination shouldn’t necessarily qualify you for asylum protection in the UK.”

On whether she has any evidence that gay people are “gaming the system”, she said: “Well, what we see operationally is that people do game the system. They come to the UK, they purport to be homosexual in the effort to game our system, in the effort to get special treatment. That’s not fair and it’s not right.”

Ms Braverman went on: “I’m afraid we do see many instances where people purport to be gay when they’re not actually gay, but in order to get special treatment. It’s not the way our asylum system should work.”

Asked if she is prepared to leave the UN Refugee Convention, the Home Secretary reiterated that as the “Prime Minister has said, we will do whatever it takes to stop the boats”.

According to Home Office data, sexual orientation formed part of the basis for an asylum claim in 1% of all applications in 2021.

That was 77% fewer than in 2019, when sexual orientation made up 5% of all applications, and 7% in 2017.

Challenging the Home Secretary’s claims, gay Labour MP and former minster Sir Chris Bryant wrote on Twitter: “How many? Where’s your evidence? And how dare you scurry behind the apron strings of prejudice to hide the fact that you’ve manifestly failed to deal with the asylum mess you and your party created.”

On Tuesday, Labour former cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw also pointed 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.”

Meanwhile, Sonya Sceats, chief executive at Freedom from Torture, said: “LGBTQI+ people are tortured in many countries for who they are and who they love, and their pain is no less than other survivors we treat in our therapy rooms.

“They deserve precisely the same protection too.

“For a liberal democracy like Britain to try to weaken protection for this community is shameful.”