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26 September 2023

What is Suella Braverman seeking to amend in the United Nations Refugee Convention?

2 mins

In a further attack on internationally accepted protections, Suella Braverman will today request that the international community seek to reform the United Nations (UN) Refugee Convention, the Guardian reports.

Ms Braverman questions if the Convention in its current form is out of date, and singles out in particular claims based on gender and sexuality: she suggests that the asylum system cannot be sustained if protection is granted ‘simply [for] being gay, or a woman, and fearing discrimination’.

Roberta Haslam, partner in our Immigration, Asylum, and Nationality team, comments:

Suella Braverman’s words seek to undermine the much-needed and significant developments that have been hard-fought over the years in sexual orientation and gender-based asylum claims. Her comments fail to reflect reality: UK Visa and Immigration’s (UKVI) own statistics on asylum claims on the basis of sexual orientation made in 2022 (published in August 2023) found that only 2% of asylum claims in the UK included sexual orientation as part of their claim, and while this was an increase in the previous year (which was comparatively low due to the Covid-19 pandemic), the proportion of claims made that included a lesbian, gay or bisexual element had fallen significantly since 2019. In total, there were only 739 cases where there were grants or permission given on alternative basis, on initial decisions in 2022 on LGB asylum applications.

Further, to suggest simple discrimination is necessary to warrant protection is misleading. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Handbook makes it clear that to amount to persecution, the measures of discrimination must ‘lead to consequences of a substantially prejudicial nature for the person concerned’. Nuanced consideration needs to be given – as confirmed in UKVI’s own guidance, ‘Discrimination and societal disapproval may not in themselves amount to persecution but, if expressed in an extreme way and without effective protection from the State, then outright hostility, general discriminatory measures and the cumulative effects of harassment, threats and restrictions can constitute persecution’.

Suella Braverman’s speech is yet another assault on human rights, human dignity, and the protection of those in need and could further diminish the UK’s standing on human rights globally.

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