Sir Elton John slammed Suella Braverman as a furore grew on Wednesday against the Home Secretary’s call to rewrite UN refugee rights.
The veteran singer singled out the minister’s contentious assertion that gay people and women were qualifying for asylum by showing they were “fearful of discrimination” in their country of origin.
“Dismissing the very real danger LGBTQ+ communities face risks further legitimising hate and violence against them,” Sir Elton said in a joint statement with his husband David Furnish and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer rejected Sir Elton’s criticism, insisting on ITV’s Good Morning Britain that “fear of discrimination” was not the same as genuine persecution for justifying asylum. But rights campaigners stressed that Home Office inspectors do insist on evidence of persecution before granting asylum.
Sir Elton’s comments added to a wave of criticism after Ms Braverman, speaking at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said the UN system for protecting refugees needed reform and that multiculturalism had “failed” in Europe.
The threshold for asylum had steadily been lowered since the UN Refugee Convention was signed in 1951, she argued.
The latest Home Office figures show that 2 per cent of asylum claims made in Britain last year included sexual orientation as part of the basis for a claim, and most of them were upheld.
Asked after her speech whether Britain would consider leaving the convention without reforms, Ms Braverman said the Government would do “whatever is required” to tackle the issue of migrants arriving via unauthorised routes.
But the UN’s refugee agency said the 1951 convention remained “crucial” for protecting people facing persecution, as some critics accused Ms Braverman of weaponising the migrants issue to further her own Tory leadership ambitions.
Lord Gavin Barwell, who was chief of staff to prime minister Theresa May, accused Ms Braverman of resorting to “the language of the far right” by claiming that uncontrolled migration represents an “existential challenge” to the West.
“I live in one of the most diverse parts of the country,” the former Croydon MP said. “You’re talking about my friends and neighbours. It is untrue and deeply offensive to suggest they’re not part of our society.”
In a round of broadcast interviews on Wednesday, the Culture Secretary declined to repeat the line about multiculturalism from Ms Braverman, whose own parents came to Britain as immigrants.
“I don’t think it’s a yes/no answer in that sense,” Ms Frazer told LBC radio, pointing to her own great-grandparents’ experience of coming to Britain as refugees and building successful lives for their children.
“So I think traditionally we are fantastic at doing this,” the Cabinet minister added on Times Radio.
“What she was talking about was the importance of integrating. It is really important that when we give people a home here, people who have been persecuted, it’s really important that we integrate them into our society, and that they adopt our British values.”