Suella Braverman has gone head-to-head with Sir Elton John after she recently claimed that asylum seekers “pretend to be gay” in her latest outburst, with the singer accusing the Home Secretary of “legitimising hate” against LGBT+ people.
Speaking to ITV’s Anushka Asthana in a pre-recorded interview for Peston, Ms Braverman said that operational evidence suggested people seeking asylum were purporting to be gay to “game our system”.
She went on to add that a fear of discrimination for being homosexual or a woman should not be sufficient to qualify for refugee protection, which sparked a furious response from the Rocketman singer who hit back to say the Home Secretary was dismissing the danger these individuals faced.
As the row escalated, the Home Secretary hit back and 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… 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.”
Her comments did not go down well with the 76-year-old pop icon, who criticised her and said that he 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 her recent speech.
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.”
Last year 739 people were granted asylum when sexual orientation formed the basis of their claim, Home Office figures show.
Meanwhile, 285 were rejected. In the previous seven years officials granted 3,632 and rejected 6,472 similar applications – but nearly 2,000 of the refusals were overturned at appeal.
Following Ms 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”.
Leanne MacMillan, Director of Global at Stonewall, said: “The implication that LGBTQ+ and women asylum seekers are using their identities to falsely claim asylum en masse is unhelpful and unsound when viewed alongside statistics which clearly show that the majority of claims are valid and made by those who are at serious risk of violence.
“The UK has a proud recent history of helping LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution from the Taliban and for standing up for LGBTQ+ rights on the global stage. This is the kind of global leadership we need to see, not a race to the bottom and turning our back on LGBTQ+ people in some of the world’s most hostile contexts.”