Gay Bristol Bisons rugby player in asylum ‘limbo’
Ken Macharia says he will be persecuted for being gay if he is deported to Kenya
By Richard Johnson
Last Updated: 21/05/19 12:57pm
A gay rugby player fighting deportation to Kenya has called on Home Secretary Sajid Javid to decide his case and end his three-year ordeal in "limbo".
Since 2016 Ken Macharia, who plays for inclusive and gay-friendly rugby team the Bristol Bisons, has been living in fear of being sent back to Kenya, where same-sex relationships are illegal.
He moved to the UK 10 years ago to study for a masters degree but has now been barred from working while he waits for a decision from the Home Office.
"I am living in limbo. It's like death by a thousand cuts," said Macharia.
"Before I started this process, I was thinking the UK is a champion of human rights.
"But I was surprised by the treatment I received. It was extremely hostile. They do everything they can to make it really difficult to apply for asylum.
"He (Mr Javid) needs to sort things out and really show the UK does live up to what it claims to be as a country that protects human rights."
Macharia was released on bail from an immigration detention centre in November following a campaign from his team-mates, who set up a crowdfunding page to help pay for his legal fees.
A petition calling for Ken to be allowed to stay in the UK has won more than 100,000 signatures, including Stephen Fry's.
While a judge has granted Macharia bail, the Home Office still opposes his asylum claim and the Bisons' battle to keep him in the UK continues.
"If it wasn't for the Bisons, I would most probably have been deported by now," says Macharia. "They have helped to secure my freedom.
"Being part of the Bisons has made me feel proud of who I am. It's a unique environment."
Macharia's case has attracted a lot of media attention and he is concerned he will not be safe if he is sent back to Kenya, where same-sex relationships can attract prison sentences of up to 14 years.
Alex Wright, a caseworker at the Immigration Advice Service, said: "I would have thought the prominence this case has received would indicate that potentially there would be a higher risk of mob violence upon return and I hope they would see some sense."
Without commenting directly on Macharia's case, a Home Office spokeswoman said: "This Government has a proud record of providing protection for asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity."