Gay Kenyan rugby player loses fight to stay in the UK

Ken Macharia
Ken Macharia. Photo: Bristol Bisons

A gay Kenyan rugby player currently living in Bristol has lost his battle to stay in the UK, despite claiming he will be persecuted due to his sexuality if he returns home.

After being detained for two weeks last November, 39-year-old mechanical engineer Kenneth Macharia was granted bail from Colnbrook Immigration Centre, but after receiving news from the Home Office that his right to stay in the UK had been revoked, friends and family say he may be detained imminently and sent back to Kenya.

Mr Macharia, who plays for the LGBTQ inclusive Bristol Bisons RFC, says he fears mob violence or blackmail if he returns home.

Current UK travel advice for Kenya says: “Homosexual activity is illegal. Public displays of homosexuality like holding hands or kissing in public places could lead to arrest and imprisonment.” Despite this, the British Government refuses asylum to the vast majority of Kenyans making claims on the basis of sexual orientation.

Among those supporting his fight to remain in the UK is actor Stephen Fry.

Lawyers and campaigners have blamed a “culture of disbelief” among Home Office caseworkers. They say there is an excessively high bar for asylum seekers to prove their cases, but the Home Office has defended its “proud record” of giving asylum to those fleeing persecution because of their sexuality.

In a statement, the Home Office said: “This Government has a proud record of providing protection for asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“All available evidence is carefully and sensitively considered in light of published country information.

“All decisions on claims based on sexual orientation are subject to an additional safeguard reviewed by a second experienced caseworker.”

Mr Macharia, a mechanical engineer, says his former employer had told the Home Office that he would have been welcomed back to his role if he was allowed to stay and his job is on the shortage occupation list.

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