gay rugby player wins five-year battle against deportation to Kenya | Immigration and asylum
A gay rugby player famous after winning a five-year battle against deportation to Kenya, where he feared persecution for his sexuality.
Kenneth Macharia, 41, on Monday won an appeal in immigration court against the Home Office plan to remove him from the UK. His campaign drew huge public support, with more than 180,000 people signing a petition calling on the Home Office to let him stay.
He plays for the Bristol Bisons, an inclusive rugby union club, whose players have offered their support throughout his ordeal.
Macharia, who lives in Glastonbury, Somerset, said while he felt delighted to finally be safe and free, the decision had yet to be made.
“I have lived in fear and uncertainty for so long, but I will celebrate tonight when I go to train for rugby,” he said. “Now that I have won my appeal for refugee status, I feel I can live fully. “
He arrived from Kenya in 2009 on a student visa, then renewed his visa as a highly skilled migrant working as a mechanical engineer. He applied for asylum in 2016 because of his fear of persecution in Kenya because of his sexuality. His employer said there was always a role for him in the business.
In May 2019, a Kenyan High Court ruling upheld the criminalization of same-sex relationships on the grounds that Kenya’s 2010 constitution, which defines opposite-sex marriage, would be compromised if gay people could begin to live together.
Immigration judge who ruled in Macharia’s favor, Lorraine Mensah, said openly gay men in Kenya risked persecution because of “discriminatory laws that create a hostile environment in which gay men are exposed to a real risk of discrimination ”.
Macharia’s attorney, Dr S Chelvan of 33 Chambers of Bedford Row, expressed concern about the Home Office’s National Policy Briefing team, which he said was not giving any appropriate guidance on the risk of return for some asylum seekers.
“Judge Mensah made it clear that the court was concerned that the April 2020 Home Office report on Kenya did not accurately reflect the risk to gay men in Kenya. In the light of the recommendations published by the independent chief inspector last September, the Minister of the Interior should take this opportunity to review the functioning and management of the information team on the policies of the country, in order to ensure accurate and reliable decision-making on asylum applications by the Ministry of the Interior.
A government spokesperson said, “This government is proud to provide protection to asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We are reforming the asylum system to be fair but firm, welcoming those who come to the UK through safe and legal channels.”