A Kenyan rugby player based in Bristol has received the backing of his teammates in fighting to stop his pending deportation from the UK.
Bristol Bisons team member Kenneth Macharia from Shepton Mallet, Somerset, has had his request for asylum rejected by the Home Office. By the time of going to press, he was still detained at Colnbrook immigration centre near Heathrow airport pending deportation.
Macharia’s teammates, noting that he has lived in the UK since 2009 and had a work visa, have set up a petition and launched a social media campaign in an attempt to force the Home Office to reverse the decision.
They fear Ken, as he is popularly known, will suffer violence or face persecution and imprisonment if he is forced to return to Kenya, where homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment.
The Home Office reportedly rejected his asylum application and his appeal because they deem Kenya to be safe for gay people.
Macharia is said to have texted members of the gay and inclusive rugby club for help last Friday.
With heavy hearts we are sharing the news that one of our members has been detained pending deportation from the UK.
Kenneth Macharia has had his request for asylum rejected and now risks being deported to Kenya, fearful of persecution and violence in Kenya because he is gay. pic.twitter.com/qySfq3XUAy
— Bristol Bisons RFC (@bisonsrfc) November 18, 2018
The club said: “Ken’s story is yet another example of the Home Office ignoring the risks that LGBT people face in multiple countries around the world. We are providing support for Ken at this challenging time, hoping he will not be removed from the UK to continue his life here. Deporting Ken from the UK will mean that he is unable to see his mother who lives in Bristol.”
The petition, which has since been signed by over 5,500 people, further describes Kenya as “a country where homophobic violence and imprisonment is rife.”
It reads, “Deporting a good, hard-working, gay man to a country where homophobic violence and imprisonment is rife is immoral and unjust, and should be stopped.”
Speaking with BBC radio from the detention center, Macharia said that in addition to laws punishing homosexuality, “there is a lot of mob justice that takes place in Kenya because the police are generally inefficient and the general public have a habit of taking the law into their own hands.”
The Guardian reports that the Home Office said it could not comment on the individual case. A spokesperson was quoted: “This government has a proud record of providing protection for asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the UK remains a world leader in its approach to handling this type of asylum claim.
“We are committed to delivering an asylum process that is sensitive to all forms of persecution, including those based on sexual identity or orientation. We have a robust assurance mechanism which involves considering all available evidence in light of published country-specific information.”
Macharia joined the Bisons in 2015 and as well as playing on the team he is also a match photographer and first-aider.