Kent Law School experts respond to Home Secretary's comments on UN convention and asylum

Katherine Moss

Two experts from Kent Law School have responded to comments made by UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman (26 September) that the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees is no longer ‘fit for the modern age’ and that that the term ‘well-founded fear’ is being downgraded in legal cases to mean ‘a credible or plausible fear’.

Sheona York, Reader in Law and a Kent Law Clinic solicitor, said: ‘Any immigration lawyer reading this will wonder which court Suella Braverman has been sitting in. While legal precedents have been set which provide a more modern understanding of where the treatment of women or gay people ceases to be simply discrimination or otherwise to be tolerated and becomes persecution, the common experience of those claiming asylum on the basis of gender-based violence or persecution based on sexual orientation is to be refused by the Home Office, and face lengthy waits for an appeal.

‘While it may be true that more abused women, gay men and lesbians threatened with stoning or the death penalty, may have been granted asylum in the last decade than in previous years since the Convention was signed, a change in semantics will not bring about a reduction in successful asylum seekers.

‘The bigger question to be answered is not ‘how on earth can we stop all these bogus asylum-seekers’ but what can be done collectively to ensure that Western economic, monetary and diplomatic initiatives do not destabilise ‘sending’ countries, as well as what can be done to help them achieve development and democratic rights sufficient to encourage their people to stay at home.’

Sian Lewis, Senior Lecturer in Law, discussed the Home Secretary’s comments with BBC Radio Wales on 27 September. As well as explaining the convention and its success as a human rights treaty in giving protection for people fleeing persecution, she said: ‘Braverman’s claims about the refugee convention are completely misplaced and ill judged, and they certainly do not represent reality. She’s either misunderstood the law which would be surprising, given that she herself is a lawyer, or she has been badly advised, or she has deliberately established a false premise fallacy for political reasons. In other words, she’s made false claims about the Convention and how it works in order to proceed to argue against it.’ 

You can hear the full interview here.