A gay rugby player celebrates after winning a five-year battle against deportation to Kenya, where he feared being persecuted for his sexuality.
Kenneth Macharia, 41, won an appeal in the Immigration Court on Monday against Home Office plans to remove him from the UK. His campaign received widespread public support. More than 180,000 people signed a petition asking the Home Office to let him stay.
He plays for the Bristol Bisons, an inclusive rugby union club whose players provided support during his ordeal.
Macharia, who lives in Glastonbury, Somerset, said that while he felt delighted to finally be safe and free, the decision had not yet been made.
“I’ve lived with fear and insecurity for so long, but I’ll party tonight when I go to rugby practice,” he said. “After I was successful with my refugee appeal, I have the feeling that I can lead a full life.”
He arrived from Kenya on a student visa in 2009 and then extended his visa as a highly skilled migrant who worked as a specialized mechanical engineer. Fearing persecution in Kenya because of his sexuality, he applied for asylum in 2016. His employer said that he still had a job with the company.
In May 2019, a Kenyan Supreme Court ruling upheld the criminalization of gay relationships on the basis that Kenya’s 2010 Constitution, which defines marriage as between people of the opposite sex, would undermine if gays could begin living together.
Immigration judge who ruled in Macharia’s favor, Lorraine Mensah, stated that openly gay men in Kenya are at risk of persecution due to “discriminatory laws that create a hostile environment where gay men are at real risk of discrimination”.
Macharia’s lawyer, Dr. S. Chelvan, of 33 Chambers in Bedford Row, expressed concern about the Home Office’s country policy information team, which in his view is not providing adequate guidance on the risk of return for some asylum seekers.
“Judge Mensah highlighted the Tribunal’s concern that the Interior Ministry’s April 2020 report on Kenya did not accurately reflect the risk to gay men in Kenya. In view of the recommendations of the independent chief inspector published in September last year, the Interior Minister should take this opportunity to review the functioning and management of the country policy information team in order to ensure an accurate and reliable decision by the Interior Ministry on applications for asylum applications. “
A government spokesman said: “This government takes pride in providing protection to asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We are reforming the asylum system so that it is fair but decisive and we welcome those who come to the UK via safe and legal channels.”