RECOGNISE. YOUR. PRIVILEGE.
Suella Braverman (Sue-Ellen Cassiana Braverman), British politician and home secretary of the United Kingdom, has been caught up in controversy this week following the speech she delivered in the US on Tuesday (26/09), surrounding migration.
In her speech, Braverman, in her criticism of the West’s current migration ‘rules’, proposed that we, in essence, ‘scale back’ the support/refuge we offer to gay people and women, claiming that, in her words, ‘the asylum system will break if people are given sanctuary for simply being gay, or a woman, and fearful of discrimination in their country of origin’ (i.e., ‘to be gay or a woman is not enough reason to come to the United Kingdom as an asylum seeker’)… Now, upon hearing this, I was shocked. I was shocked by the sheer ignorance being shown. Shocked by the total lack of empathy, the total lack of humanity, even.
I’ve written before about the importance of recognising our privelige in the world , and the necessity for us to realise that, just because something isn’t effecting us (it’s certainly not effecting Braverman, a straight, upper middle class woman in the UK), it doesn’t mean that it isn’t effecting others. The reason I bring this up is because, Suella Braverman seems to either be extremely ignorant, or to have simply forgotten (and I don’t know which is worse to be honest), the fact that it is still a crime to be gay in 67 countries around the world, with 11 of those countries (as of 2023, a.k.a. today) imposing the death penalty on people who are gay.
What is an Asylum Seeker, and why should we be helping them?
According to Amnesty International, the world’s leading human rights organisation, the definition of an asylum seeker is;
‘A person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country.’
Is being at risk of being killed for loving someone of the same sex not enough of a human rights violation? Amnesty International go on to write that;
‘Seeking asylum is a human right. This means everyone should be allowed to enter another country to seek asylum.’
As a human right then, why is Suella Braverman proposing that we take away that right for people?
I’ve focused on Braverman’s comment towards gay people thus far, but the same applies to her proposal that being a woman isn’t ‘enough’ to seek asylum either. With only 14 countries having full equal rights for women, again, I have to question Braverman’s logic.
Referring back to the post I wrote again last month,
‘Just because something isn’t affecting you, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t real…’
Women’s right to seek asylum
We’re so fortunate in the UK/in the West, to have made so much progress in terms of women having equal rights to men. We might not be there yet, the issue of misogyny is still a very real one, but we do have the right to an education. We can go to work. We do, on the whole, have access to the same opportunities as our male counterparts (to reiterate again, there is still progress to be made, we’re still not ‘there’, but, compared to other countries around the world, we are not denied basic human rights for being a woman).
As a woman in a very high up position in government-the home secretary- Braverman is perhaps blindsided to the very real situation that many women around the world find themselves in but, when she is in such a position of power and, when she has the potential to help women who are less fortunate than herself, she is choosing not to do so, but to actually withdraw that help, using the excuse that, ‘Being a woman isn’t enough to seek asylum’, despite the fact that, in Afghanistan (as just one example of a country where human rights for women are pretty much non-existent), women have severe restrictions placed on them. They cannot leave their homes unless it is a necessity to do so. They can only travel long distances with a male chaperone. They are at risk of imprisonment, or worse, if they speak up for their rights. ‘
Afghans who do take to the streets to protest for their rights are being threatened, arrested and tortured. Women’s rights activists report there have been detentions, child marriages, forced marriages and rapes.’
Why, when we have the ability to offer a safe place for women like those in Afghanistan, women who arguably have no quality of life and have to live in fear every single day, would we deny them of that? Why would we deny women the opportunity to come to a country where they can actually have the right to live, not just exist? Just…why? It really doesn’t sit right with me. at all.
You see, wars don’t just constitute bombs being dropped on cities. People need a safe place to flee from wars on their bodies, from wars on their right to love, on their right to live, too (and, at present, from Suella Braverman herself, who seems to be hell-bent on stoking a culture war)…
It’s a slippery slope when we start deeming some victims of war/torture/human rights violations (however you want to describe what they’re going through), as more, or less, deserving than others. Because, to reference Amnesty Internationals definition of an Asylum seeker again, someone who is ‘seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country’, we have the duty, the responsibility, to provide that protection to them. Not just because it’s a basic human right (though, it is), but because we should want to be nice, decent human beings- admittedly, something which the Tories are historically not very good at… Just look at the Bibby Stockholm barge controversy, described by some as a ‘floating prison’, as I wrote about here, which, surprise surprise, Suella Braverman also introduced, alongside her plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda (she went as far as saying that it was her ‘dream’ to see a deportation flight taking off to Rwanda)… The latter thankfully didn’t go ahead, not because Braverman had a sudden shift in conscience though (I wish), but because The Court of Appeal deemed it unlawful, stating that Rwanda was not a ‘safe third country.’
If Braverman had it her way, the UK would welcome no asylum seekers, I have no doubt about that. They’d all be put on a plane and sent somewhere else. Her logic seems to be that if we look away and can’t see it happening, then it’s not happening. ‘Out of sight out of mind…’ Which is really sad, not only because Braverman is a woman, so you’d think she’d have more compassion for all the women who are seeking asylum, but also because her own parents are immigrants. But no, no compassion there at all. I wonder if she’d be more willing to offer help if it were a fellow privately educated rich Tory requiring respite?- ‘we look out for our own’ and all that…
Hope For Humanity
All we can hope is that the backlash Braverman’s speech has resulted in will make her reconsider what she has proposed. A proposal that, if it does indeed come into fruition, will signify a very dark day for humanity.
And so, let us all just hold out hope that, this time, morals will prevail over money, so that life can prevail over death (because, that’s what’s on the line here)…
When we can help people, potentially saving lives (lots of them), I hope that we don’t turn a blind eye, that we can do the right thing, be good people, and prove that we do care.