'Absurd' and 'Unsustainable': Suella Braverman says asylum rules have created 780m refugees

Suella Braverman will use a speech in the US to claim UN asylum rules have created an 'absurd' asylum system - ITV News' Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana reports from Washington DC

Suella Braverman will claim that international rules on asylum have created a system that is "absurd" and "unsustainable" - as she uses a speech in the US on Tuesday to suggest the Refugee Convention is no longer fit for purpose. 

The home secretary is expected to raise the rhetoric on illegal migration - by accusing people of moving for economic reasons rather than fears for their safety, of paying smugglers and then claiming being trafficked, and "shopping around" for a preferred destination. 

Ms Braverman will say there is an argument that those arriving by small boats across the Channel should not be treated as refugees full stop - either here or in a third country like Rwanda. 

"Nobody entering the UK by boat from France is fleeing imminent peril. None of them have 'good cause' for illegal entry," Ms Braverman will say.

Suella Braverman said current system encourages "shopping around." Credit: AP

"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."

The home secretary will say it has become too easy to apply for asylum - suggesting people are able to come because of "discrimination" rather than "persecution". 

Turning to the question of the Refugee Convention - Ms Braverman is expected to say that it was created in 1951 following the horrors of World War 2 and the Holocaust, arguing "initially at least [it was] centred around Europe".

She will call it an "incredible achievement of its age" but argue it was then to cover two million people in Europe - while citing analysis that now suggests it gives 780 million the "notional right" to move. 

Ms Braverman will add: "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?"

The cost of housing asylum seekers has become a hot political debate. Credit: PA

Ms Braverman will also suggest that today's "global asylum framework" creates huge incentives for illegal migration.

"I think most members of the public would recognise those fleeing a real risk of death, torture, oppression or violence, are in need of protection," she will say, but is expected to argue that case law has changed the interpretation away from persecution and to "something more akin to a definition of 'discrimination'."

She will say “well-founded fear” has been replaced by 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.

"Let me be clear, there are vast swathes of the world where it is extremely difficult to be gay, or to be a woman.

"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."

And she will criticise the UN refugee agency and others for allowing people to travel through several safe countries and still apply for asylum at the end of their journey. 

"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."

The speech will be welcomed by many Tory MPs - especially those on the right of the party. But it is already causing upset among those who represent the rights of refugees.

Enver Solomon - chief executive of the Refugee Council - said: “A world where the UK and other western nations pull up the drawbridge and turn their backs on those who have been tortured, persecuted and faced terror because of their gender, sexuality or any other reason, is a world which turns its back on a belief in shared humanity and shared rights.

"After the horror of the Second World War, the international community chose to stand up for those principles which are 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."

The Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper accused her counterpart of "grandstanding abroad" and blaming others - while there have been record high crossings by boat to the UK.

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