UK Home Secretary Calls for Overhaul of ‘Absurd’ International Immigration Rules Facilitating Migrant Crisis

Home Secretary Suella Braverman delivers a keynote address on global migration challenges at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, during her three-day visit to the US. Picture date: Tuesday September 26, 2023. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images

Home Secretary Suella Braverman called for radical reforms to the “absurd” international regulations surrounding asylum seekers, arguing that it has become a promise that the “West cannot fulfil”.

Speaking before the American Enterprise Institute think tank on Tuesday morning in Washington D.C., Braverman — a child of immigrants herself — argued that both the United States and the United Kingdom are falling victim to radical modern interpretations of the 1951 Refugee Convention established by the U.N. in the aftermath of World War II, which she said is no longer fit for the realities of the present day.

She argued that the international refugee frameworks, such as the Convention, “obscure” the different categories of those seeking asylum, stating that it is wrong for people seeking asylum and those seeking to improve their economic standing to be lumped together, just as it is wrong for someone who is sex trafficked to be considered in the same category as someone who paid smugglers to break them into their “preferred country”.

Braverman said, therefore, that the 1951 Refugee Convention created perverse incentives for the illegal migrant trade, saying that while it was important and a real achievement when it was created: “More than 70 years on, we live in a completely different time”.

The Home Secretary said that when the Convention was ratified it conferred the right of asylum to some 2 million people, whereas today, such rights have been extended to over three-quarters of a billion people. Braverman went on to criticise the case law that has developed from starting as a means of helping people escape persecution, violence and torture to something “more akin” to fleeing discrimination, such as people seeking asylum in Western countries because LGBT people are discriminated against in their homelands.

“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, or fearful of discrimination in your country of origin is sufficient to qualify for protection,” she said.

Braverman said that the current system in which migrants can stay in safe countries for years while they “shop” around for protection is “absurd and unsustainable”, and therefore, international reforms are needed to mandate that migrants can only apply for asylum in the “first safe country they reach”.

“Nobody entering the UK by boat from France is fleeing imminent peril. None of them have good cause for illegal entry. The vast majority have passed through multiple other safe countries and in some instances have resided in safe countries for several years. There is a strong argument that they should cease to be treated as refugees during their onward movement.”

She argued that such reforms may prove difficult, however, in light of the difficulty getting the U.N. to agree on anything, but also because many in the West fear being branded as racist. Some suggested reforms from the Home Secretary included making deterrence of illegal immigration a stated goal, as well as setting out new guidelines on who is worthy of claiming asylum, and for the leeway for countries to seek alternative solutions, such as Britain’s long-delayed plan to offshore illegals in a third-party country.

Braverman went on to decry the cost of immigration to the British taxpayer, noting that in the past decade alone, the cost of the UK asylum system has risen from around £500 million a year to around £4 billion per annum, with £8 million being spent to house migrants in hotels every day. She noted that nearly no illegal migrants put in more taxes to the state than take out in terms of benefits.

The Home Secretary also warned of the threats to national security and increased criminality posed by unfettered illegal migration, saying that police chiefs in England have told her personally that illegals are more likely to be involved in the drug trade and prostitution. Illegals, she said, have already shown “contempt” for the nation’s laws by coming into the country from another safe nation illegally.

“Illegal immigration is increasingly a tool used by hostile states and those acting on their behalf,” she said, pointing to reports that the Russian mercenary Wagner group were instigating increased migratory flows from Africa into Europe as a form of “hybrid warfare” against the West.

Finally, Braverman argued that states which fail to control their own borders will collapse as the people will lose faith in the government to fulfil its basic mandates. “Who we allow into our countries and become one of us is a fundamental issue, without public consent immigration is illegitimate,” she said.

“Dismissing as idiots or bigots those members of the public who express legitimate concerns is not merely unfair, it is dangerous.”

“If cultural change is too rapid and too big, then what was already there is diluted, eventually it will disappear,” the Home Secretary said in an apparent reference to the Great Replacement theory.

The speech from Braverman comes amid migrant crises on several different fronts, including the English Channel, the Southern border of the United States, and in Italy, where thousands of mostly military-age male African economic migrants have been landing on the shores of the island of Lampedusa for years. Such is the extent of the migrant crisis in Europe — which threatens to reach similar heights to the 2016 crisis spurred by the war in Syria — that even the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borell said over the weekend that it could become the “dissolving force” that destroys the EU.

Despite officially leaving the EU in 2020, the UK has continued to see thousands of migrants pouring across the English Channel in small boats run by people-smuggling gangs on the beaches of France. After taking office in a palace coup last year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed that stopping the boats would be one of his chief priorities and one which the public should judge his government on in the next election.

Since then, approximately 24,000 illegals have made the journey. The government has so far failed to come to an agreement with either France or the EU as a whole on the issue of migrant returns, with the Europeans being accused of weaponising the issue in order to punish the people of Britain for voting to leave the bloc in 2016. The government’s main strategy of offshoring migrants, in third-party countries such as Rwanda or on floating containment centres off the coast of the UK, have so far been mired in legal limbo.

For Braverman, the speech in D.C. may come with ulterior political motives, with the Home Secretary likely looking to position herself as a small-c conservative hardliner to replace the more globalist-minded Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as leader of the Conservative Party, which is currently trailing the left-wing Labour Party by over 20 points in the polls.

The Home Secretary ran in the last leadership race to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister, a contest which despite having the backing of Brexit leader Nigel Farage and the Eurosceptic European Research Group of MPs, she came in sixth.

It remains to be seen if her tough talk on immigration will be enough to sway voters in the next leadership race, given that during her time as Home Secretary and therefore responsible for protecting the nation’s borders, the migrant crisis in the Channel continued to rage. The Tories will likely face an uphill battle in the next general election regardless of their leader given their failures to curb both illegal and illegal immigration — despite their frequent promises to do so — during their more than a decade in power.

While Braverman’s speech riled the feathers of the pro-mass migration establishment media in Britain, others said that she should have gone further, including the leader of the right-wing populist Reform UK party (formerly the Brexit Party), Richard Tice, who said that unless there are “radical” reforms to the U.N. Convention is implemented within the next six months, the UK should withdraw from the agreement.

“Shock and awe is needed to awake our complacent elites out of their cosy metropolitan slumber. The millions of potential economic migrants targeting the UK and Europe over the next few years are a clear and present danger to our way of live, our culture, our security and our prosperity,” Tice wrote in The Telegraph.

The Reform leader went on to argue that Britain should follow the example of Tony Abbott’s ‘turn back the boats’ policy in Australia, which has all but eliminated illegal boat migration. Tice said: “We must pick up and return the illegal migrants crossing the Channel back to France as we are allowed to do under international maritime law.”

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