Ken Macharia (Pic: Change.org)
An inclusive English rugby club is trying to stop one of its teammates from being deported to Kenya, where he could face persecution for being gay.
Last week, the Bristol Bisons announced on social media that member Kenneth “Ken” Macharia had been detained by immigration officers and faced imminent deportation.
Macharia fears returning to Kenya because of his sexuality. His application for asylum was rejected after an immigration judge said the country is safe for gay people, despite the possibility of being imprisoned for 14 years for being gay.
Macharia came to the UK in 2009 as an engineering student and then received a work visa, but he has now been told he must go back. “I was surprised to see that the judge said a gay person can live openly [in Kenya],” he told The Independent.
“There is a high risk of mob violence. There are criminals who try to blackmail people online. By going back to Kenya I would have to hide who I am,” Macharia said.
The amateur club, which describes itself as “inclusive and gay friendly”, has set up a petition calling on the authorities to step in to stop Macharia’s deportation, and to grant him asylum in the UK.
“Unfortunately, Ken’s story is yet another example of the Home Office ignoring the risks that LGBT people face in multiple countries around the world,” said the team.
The petition has been signed by more than 72,000 people and appears to have had an impact. On Tuesday, the Bisons confirmed that Macharia had been released from the detention centre and the threat of imminent removal from the UK has been lifted.
The Bisons thanked those who signed on in support but explained that the fight was far from over. “Whilst this is good news, we have no confirmation that Ken will not be removed from the UK entirely. He has not been granted asylum so the threat of deportation still looms large,” they said.
The UK’s Home Office has been criticised in the past for the way it has treated LGBTQ asylum seekers. A 2013 report revealed that some had been forced to present “photographic and video evidence of highly personal sexual activity to caseworkers, officers and the judiciary” to “prove” their sexuality.
In 2015, the Home Office announced that people seeking asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation would no longer be asked sexually explicit questions.