Sir Elton John has criticised home secretary Suella Braverman over her suggestion that it is unsustainable for the UK to offer asylum to gay people who face discrimination in their home countries.
The singer said the home secretary risked “further legitimising hate and violence” against LGBT+ people after she called for the “definition of who qualifies for protection” under refugee rules to be “tightened” in a speech on Tuesday.
In comments criticised by equalities campaigners, she said offering asylum to a person because they are discriminated against in their home country for being gay or a woman was not sustainable.
Following the singer’s comments the home secretary told ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana that “some people do game the system”.
She added: “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.”
Addressing the centre-right think tank American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Tuesday, Braverman said the threshold for asylum has steadily been lowered since the signing of the United Nations’ Refugee Convention more than 70 years ago.
Sir Elton responded to the comments in a joint statement posted to Instagram with his husband, David Furnish, and the Elton John Aids Foundation.
The statement said: “We are very concerned about the UK Home Secretary’s comments stating how discrimination for being gay or a woman should not be reason enough to qualify for protection under international refugee laws.
“Nearly a third of all nations class LGBTQ+ people as criminals and homosexuality is still punishable by death in 11 countries.
“Dismissing the very real danger LGBTQ+ communities face risks further legitimising hate and violence against them.
“Leaders need to provide more compassion, support and acceptance for those seeking a safer future.”
Following Braverman’s comments, the LGBT+ charity Stonewall tweeted to say that it was “incredibly concerning” to hear the home secretary stand against United Nations’ conventions, adding that “the UK has a proud recent history of helping LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution from the Taliban”.
The UN’s refugee agency, while recognising the “complex challenges” presented by irregular migration, said the 1951 UN convention remained “crucial” for protecting people facing persecution.
Asked after her speech in Washington DC whether the UK would consider leaving the convention if reforms were not delivered, Braverman said the UK government would do “whatever is required” to tackle the issue of migrants arriving via unauthorised routes.
She also admitted that her called-for reforms to the UN’s refugee convention would be cumbersome due to the difficulty in getting all member states to agree.
The latest Home Office figures indicate that 2% of asylum claims made in the UK last year included sexual orientation as part of the basis for a claim.
The Home Office declined to respond directly to Sir Elton’s comments.
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