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Gay rugby player wins 5-year asylum fight after Home Office tried to deport him to homophobic Kenya

Lily Wakefield July 19, 2021
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Kenneth Macharia Kenya gay rugby

Kenneth "Ken" Macharia is facing deportation to Kenya. (Change.org)

Gay rugby player Kenneth Macharia has won his five-year asylum fight, after the Home Office tried to deport him to homophobic Kenya.

The Bristol Bisons player has been fighting deportation to Kenya, where gay sex is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, since October 2016.

Macharia has lived in the UK for 12 years, and initially came to the country in 2009 on a student visa to study mechanical engineering.

He had multiple visas extended, but eventually decided to seek asylum as returning to Kenya would mean facing violence and persecution as an openly gay man.

Despite a petition campaigning to stop his deportation reaching over 180,000 signatures, and the unequivocal support of his teammates, in 2019 he was told that his asylum claim had been rejected and that he must leave the country “without delay”.

Two years of uncertainty later, on Friday (16 July), Macharia was finally told that the Home Office had dropped its case against him and that he had been granted asylum in the UK, according to Sky Sports.

Last month, a tribunal ruled that the gay rugby player should be granted refugee status, and now, it has been announced that the Home Office will not appeal the ruling.

Kenneth Macharia said it will take him time to ‘believe this nightmare is over’

In a statement released via his lawyers, Kenneth Macharia said: “When I tell people close to me the news, they are jumping with joy and excitement, I put on a smile and pretend to share the same level of enthusiasm.

“It’s been a very long struggle, since 2016. I have had my hopes crushed too many times. I can’t help wondering what will go wrong.

“The sadness has not gone away. I used to be optimistic. It will be a while before I am again.”

He continued: “I am very grateful for all the support I have received. Very many people came to my aid at my time of need. The list is very long, some I know, some I don’t. Thanks to each and everyone of you.

“It will take me a bit of time to truly believe this nightmare is over and be at the same level of enthusiasm as you.”

Dr S Chelvan, Macharia’s barrister, told The Guardian that the Home Office’s own report on Kenya from April 2020 did not accurately reflect the risk to gay men and that there were clear concerns surrounding appropriate guidance about the risk some asylum seekers face if forced to leave the UK.

“The home secretary should use this opportunity to review the operation and management of the country policy information team, in order to ensure accurate and reliable refugee claim decision-making by the Home Office.”

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