UN slaps down Suella Braverman after Home Secretary says uncontrolled migration is ‘existential challenge’ to the West

27 September 2023, 06:58 | Updated: 27 September 2023, 08:56

Suella Braverman warned that a failure to control migration poses an "existential challenge" to the West.
Suella Braverman warned that a failure to control migration poses an "existential challenge" to the West. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The United Nations has criticised Suella Braverman after the Home Secretary warned that a failure to control migration posed an "existential challenge" to the West.

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Ms Braverman said that "uncontrolled and illegal migration" was "an existential challenge for the political and cultural institutions of the West", in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington DC on Tuesday.

Her comments have met with criticism from the UN, as well as other refugee and human rights groups.

The UN's high commissioner on human rights said: "UNHCR recognises the complex challenges presented by the irregular movement of refugees across and beyond their regions of origin, often together with migrants moving for other reasons.

"The Refugee Convention remains as relevant today as when it was adopted in providing an indispensable framework for addressing those challenges, based on international co-operation."

The UN added that it is "crucial" that people who are "at risk of persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity" are able to "seek safety and protection" in other countries.

"The Refugee Convention has been widely recognised as capable of providing protection to these groups, amongst others.

"The need is not for reform, or more restrictive interpretation, but for stronger and more consistent application of the convention and its underlying principle of responsibility-sharing."

"Just as it's a basic rule of history that nations which cannot defend their borders will not long survive, it is a basic rule of politics that political systems which cannot control their borders will not maintain the consent of the people, and thus not long endure.

"You do not have to be clairvoyant to see how might this all unfold."

Amnesty International UK accused Ms Braverman of making "a display of cynicism and xenophobia" with her speech.

Sacha Deshmukh, the human rights group's chief executive, said: "Instead of making inflammatory speeches decrying the rights of people fleeing persecution and tyranny, Suella Braverman should focus on creating a functioning UK asylum system that tackles the massive backlog her policies have created, so as to be able to meet the limited refugee responsibilities that fall to the UK."

Migrants being brought ashore in Dover earlier this month
Migrants being brought ashore in Dover earlier this month. Picture: Alamy

She also warned of "obvious threats to public safety and national security," adding that UK police chiefs have warned her of heightened levels of criminality linked to some small boat arrivals - particularly in relation to drug crime, exploitation, and prostitution.”

She said it is "not merely an event-driven or cyclical problem", but a "permanent and structural challenge" for developed nations.

"Unless we act, it will only worsen in the years to come,” she said.

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She said that “nobody knows the true number of illegal arrivals, and estimates in this area very rarely turn out to be lower" and that Britain was one of the most attractive countries to migrants.

Citing Home Office figures, Ms Braverman said that the rise in asylum seekers arriving on British sores doubled the cost of the asylum system to nearly £4bn.

Accommodation, new schools, improved roads, extra police officers, additional healthcare, and other public services on which a community relies “cannot be magicked up out of thin air,” she said.

She said multiculturalism “has failed because it allowed people to come to our society and live parallel lives in it", and even "pursue lives aimed at undermining the stability and threatening the security of our society".

Migration to the UK and Europe in the last 25 years "has been too much, too quick, with too little thought given to integration and the impact on social cohesion," she said.

"If cultural change is too rapid and too big, then what was already there is diluted. Eventually it will disappear."

It "does not make one anti-immigrant" to say that the nation state must be protected, Ms Braverman added, pointing to her own background as the "child of immigrants".

She told the audience in Washington DC: "Unless countries can prevent or rapidly remove illegal migrants, pressures on the state will compound over time. Accommodation cannot be magicked out of thin air."

She further raised the alarm over public services including schools, saying thousands of extra places will need to be created due to "high birth rates among foreign-born mothers".

She also highlighted "threats to public safety", noting "heightened levels of criminality connected to some small boat arrivals".

"People who choose to come across the Channel illegally from another safe country have already showed contempt for our laws," she said.