4th October 2023 – Europe's largest LGBTQ+ right charity Stonewall has been joined by 245 other organisations across the human rights, refugee, LGBTQ+ and women’s sectors in a powerful display of solidarity, following comments by the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, last week.
The coalition, including organisations such as Amnesty, Oxfam, End Violence Against Women Coalition, Refugee Council and Women For Refugee Women, has written to UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to protect LGBTQ+ people and women around the world.
Many of the signatories work daily with LGBTQ+ and women refugees, and ‘bear witness to their scars from being persecuted’.
The letter rejects Ms Braverman’s claim that LGBTQ+ and women refuges are misusing their identities to make false claims, and speaks of regret that the Home Secretary’s selective use of stats ‘have nothing to do with genuine concern or respect for international law, refugees or their protection.’
Robbie de Santos, Director of External Affairs at Stonewall, said: “We all deserve a government with the compassion and will to protect the most vulnerable in society. Not only is the incumbent UK Government failing LGBTQ+ people domestically, with inaction on rising hate crime, but they are also failing the international community by indicated their disdain for international law – in the process bringing great shame on party and country.”
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Refugee and Migrant Rights Director at Amnesty International UK, said: “The Home Secretary’s verbal attack on the rights of LGBTQ+ and women refugees is deplorable. Not only did she once again stir utterly false prejudices against people seeking asylum, she also targeted refugees who often continue to face grave insecurity, hostility and violence – even long after escaping persecution and conflict. Ministers must stop their constant scapegoating and put their energy into repairing the utter wreckage they have made of the asylum system.”
Alphonsine Kabagado, Director, Women For Refugee Women, said: “We strongly condemn Suella Braverman’s speech last week – which was dangerous, inflammatory and racist. Not only did her claims stoke hatred and fear, they were untrue. To be granted asylum in the UK, you must prove a well-founded fear of persecution. Her suggestion that people lie about their identities to make false claims for protection, or that it is possible to be granted asylum based on discrimination alone, is unfounded. We know from our work supporting refugee and asylum-seeking women, including LGBTQ+ women, that many face persecution including torture, gender-based violence, sexual violence, trafficking and rape.
Braverman’s speech was also hypocritical. The Government has repeatedly stated its commitment to tackling violence against women and supporting survivors of such violence, as well as to supporting LGBTQ+ people. Yet when it comes to women or LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum in the UK, it seems these commitments do not apply. Instead of whipping up hatred, fear, and division against women and LGBTQ+ people seeking safety, the Government should treat them with compassion and kindness. How we treat people is who we are; the Government’s hostility does not represent us.”
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said: “Turning our backs on LGBTQ+ people and suggesting they are undeserving of a fair hearing in the asylum system is immoral.
Of the small number of people who come to the UK claiming asylum based on their sexual orientation, the majority are recognised as having a well-founded fear of persecution and are given refugee protection. We know from our work how traumatised they often are - what they need is support to restart their lives in safety, rather than hostility and disbelief.
The Refugee Convention’s fundamental purpose is to offer protection to those who need it, based on shared global values of humanity and fairness. Abandoning these values does not reflect who we are as a country.”
Leila Zadeh, CEO, Rainbow Migration, said: “Across the world there are LGBTQI+ people experiencing violence and persecution simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Around 70 countries still criminalise same-sex relations, and in some places the picture is getting worse.
Many LGBTQI+ people that we support every day tell us how they faced life-threatening situations back home. For example, Olu, a lesbian from Nigeria had to run for her life when her husband found out she was a lesbian and nearly killed her, or Adams was violently attacked in the street on several occasions by members of his community in Ghana because he was bisexual.
We all want to live somewhere where we can be safe and live fulfilling lives and most of us welcome people who are fleeing for their lives. We ask that the PM gets in line with public sentiment and commits to the protection of the rights of LGBTQ+ people seeking safety in the UK.”
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