Suella Braverman says being gay is not enough to claim asylum and Channel migrants don’t count as refugees as she demands overhaul of UN rules in major speech in the US today – warning 780m people are eligible to come to the UK 

Suella Braverman will attack ‘absurd’ international refugee rules today warning that 780 million people are eligible to claim asylum in the UK.

In a bold speech in Washington DC – being seen as a pitch to be the next Tory leader – the Home Secretary will demand an overhaul of the UN Refugee Convention to help end the Channel crisis.

She will brand the system ‘unsustainable’, complaining that it creates ‘huge incentives for illegal migration’. 

Insisting being trafficked as a sex slave is completely different from paying a gang to smuggle you across the Channel, Ms Braverman raises the prospect of rewriting the UN’s 1951 treaty to raise the threshold for asylum claims. 

She will point out that would-be refugees once had to show they were facing ‘persecution’ but now they must only prove ‘discrimination’.

‘Simply being gay, or a woman, and fearful of discrimination’ should no longer amount to grounds for asylum, she will argue at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank.

Mrs Braverman will suggest the UN treaty is ‘an incredible achievement of its age’, but highlight its role in the crisis that has seen nearly 110,000 migrants cross the Channel on dinghies to reach Britain since 2018.

‘More than 70 years on, we now live in a completely different time,’ she will say.

‘According to analysis by Nick Timothy and Karl Williams for the Centre for Policy Studies, it now confers the notional right to move to another country upon at least 780 million people. 

Suella Braverman (pictured) will claim international asylum laws are creating an ‘absurd and unsustainable’ system with ‘huge incentives for illegal migration’

Mrs Braverman will today warn that 780 million people are eligible to claim asylum in the UK under ‘absurd’ rules and argue that Channel boat migrants should not be treated as refugees

Mrs Braverman will suggest the UN treaty has played a key role in the crisis that has seen nearly 110,000 migrants cross the Channel on dinghies to reach Britain since 2018

‘It is therefore incumbent upon politicians and thought leaders to ask whether the Refugee Convention, and the way it has come to be interpreted through our courts, is fit for our modern age. Or whether it is in need of reform.’ 

Ms Braverman – who has been accompanied by a TV crew on her trip to the US – is also expected to say in her speech: ‘Nobody entering the UK by boat from France is fleeing imminent peril.

Crackdown ‘to bar families of foreign carers’

Suella Braverman is pressing for sweeping changes to the visa system that would bar tens of thousands of foreign workers from bringing relatives to the UK.

The Home Secretary is understood to have put forward plans to curb legal migration ahead of the next election. It comes amid concern among Conservative backbenchers that they will be punished at the ballot box over record net migration figures of 606,000 a year.

Mrs Braverman and immigration minister Robert Jenrick have urged Downing Street to approve major changes to legal migration routes, including restrictions on foreign care workers bringing dependents with them when they move to Britain, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The number of health and social care visas issued by the Home Office has increased by 157 per cent in a year. Government data says 121,290 were handed out in the 12 months to June, up from 47,194 the previous year.

The changes could mirror restrictions on foreign students.

‘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.’

She will ask whether the 70-year-old UN treaty still suits the modern age or should be rewritten.

‘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,’ she will say.

Mrs Braverman will also level her sights at immigration lawyers and judges.

She will question whether the way the convention has ‘come to be interpreted through our courts’ is also in need of reform. 

The Government’s Illegal Migration Act, passed by Parliament earlier this year, bars ‘irregular’ migrants from claiming asylum.

However, its powers have yet to be brought into force and it remains unclear whether it will make it easier to remove migrants whose claims are denied.

Mrs Braverman’s criticisms of the UN treaty will be disputed by many immigration lawyers and campaigners, who point to Britain’s leading role in drawing it up after the horrors of the Second World War. 

Policing minister Chris Philp supported Ms Braverman’s view, telling Times Radio the convention ‘needs to be looked at on an international basis’.

He said the government had ‘seen people shopping around between different countries to choose where to claim asylum’.

‘That’s not how the UN Refugee Convention was originally designed, it’s not designed to allow people to circulate in Europe for a number of years before deciding where to claim asylum and making dangerous and illegal journeys doing so,’ he said.

Mr Philp said some people are falsely claiming to be persecuted, saying that ‘some people claim to be gay when they’re not’.

‘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,’ he added.

Ms Braverman is expected to say in her speech in Washington DC tomorrow: ‘Nobody entering the UK by boat from France is fleeing imminent peril’

Migrants are picked up at sea while attempting to cross the English Channel last month

Ms Braverman will point out that the convention defines refugees as those with a ‘well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’.

‘However, as case law has developed, what we have seen in practice is an interpretive shift away from persecution, in favour of something more akin to a definition of discrimination,’ she will say.

‘And a similar shift away from a ‘well-founded fear’ towards a ‘credible’ or ‘plausible fear’.

‘The practical consequence of which has been to expand the number of those who may qualify for asylum, and to lower the threshold for doing so.

‘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.’

Mrs Braverman will also highlight ‘asylum shopping’ which sees migrants move through numerous safe countries to reach their target country.

The convention ‘makes clear’ that it is intended to apply to individuals ‘coming directly from a territory where their life was threatened’, she will say, and that they must show ‘good cause’ for entering a country illegally in order to claim asylum.

‘The UK along with many others, including America, interpret this to mean that people should seek refuge and claim asylum in the first safe country that they reach,’ she will add. ‘But NGOs and others, including the UN Refugee Agency, contest this.

‘Seeking asylum and seeking better economic prospects are not the same thing.

‘Seeking refuge in the first safe country you reach or shopping around for your preferred destination are not the same thing. Being trafficked – ie, transported against your will, perhaps to be sold into sex slavery – and being smuggled – ie, asking someone to sneak you into a country – are not the same thing.

‘The extent to which the global asylum framework enables the merging of these categories creates huge incentives for illegal migration. This legal framework is rooted in the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.’

She will note that when the convention was signed it conferred protection on two million Europeans, but a recent analysis by the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank concluded it now ‘confers the notional right to move to another country upon at least 780million people’.

Any reform of the convention will be a drawn-out process and would need to secure widespread international support.

A Centre for Policy Studies report, published last year and co-authored by former Theresa May aide Nick Timothy, recommended the UK should ‘work with international partners on updating the antiquated 1951 Refugee Convention’.

But Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the convention’s principles were ‘just as important today as they have ever been’.

‘Abandoning them is not an option: We must stand firm in our commitment to all people fleeing persecution and the international frameworks that were created to protect them,’ he said.

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