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A GAY rugby player the Home Office tried to deport to Kenya despite fears he would be persecuted because of his sexuality has won a five-battle for his right to stay in Britain.
Ken Macharia, of the Bristol Bisons Rugby Football Club, first came to Britain in 2009 as a student and stayed in the country as a qualified mechanical engineer by renewing his work permits.
Fearing the prospect of returning to Kenya, where being homosexual is not a criminal offence but the country’s penal code, which it inherited from British colonial rule, does criminalise gay sex, Macharia decided to apply for asylum.
The Home Office initially rejected his application because it didn’t believe that he was gay.
Macharia launched an appeal in December 2016 and, though the judge agreed Macharia was honest about his sexuality, the government’s rejection was upheld.
The judge claimed that LGBT people in Kenya can live openly and freely without the risk of prosecution. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, however, advises British travellers that “homosexual activity in Kenya is illegal.
“Public displays of homosexuality,” it says, “like holding hands or kissing in public places could lead to arrest and imprisonment.”
In November 2018, Macharia spent two weeks in Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre but was released following widespread support for a petition set up Bristol Bisons teammate Andrew Holmes calling for his release.
Then, in June 2019, Macharia received a letter from the Home Office informing him that he had “no basis to stay in the United Kingdom”and that he was “expected to make arrangements to leave without delay.”
Macharia’s case was then put up for judicial review, which he won in June and the Home Office confirmed last Friday that it would not appeal.
In a statement release by his legal team today, Marcharia said it will take time for him to believe the fight is over.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“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 every one 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.”
Macharia’s barrister Dr S Chelvan of 33 Bedford Row said: “This is yet another example of where the Home Office are refusing asylum claims based on inaccurate country information compiled by their country policy and information team (CPIT).
“Ken Macharia’s journey through the UK’s asylum system proves why structural change to CPIT is urgently needed.
“The Home Secretary needs to address this lack of accountability towards this department and address this lack of public confidence and trust in Home Office decision-making, and ensure in [Macharia's] words ‘this nightmare is over’.”
Bristol Bisons Rugby Football Club issued a statement today announcing Macharia's right to stay.
"We’d like to thank everyone for their continued support throughout the past couple of years," the Bisons said.
“We still regularly receive messages asking as to the proceedings, anything that can be done, and Ken’s general wellbeing.
“Unfortunately, due to advice on the legal proceedings, we have been unable to comment or raise discussion on the case, so that the experts could do their job.
“This latest ruling, and confirmation that the Home Office will not appeal the decision, means that Ken has the right to live — and work — in the UK for the foreseeable future.
“So once again, thank you to everyone who has offered their time, money and support throughout the fight.”
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