Gay Kenyan rugby player seeks asylum told to leave the UK

Kenneth Macharia.
A gay rugby player’s asylum appeal was rejected by the UK government citing that his home country, Kenya, is safe for gay people.

Kenneth Macharia, 39, is a member of the gay and inclusive English rugby club, Bristol Bisons, and was told by the Home Office on Monday (June 3) that he cannot stay in the UK and must leave “without delay”.

Recently, the Kenyan High Court upheld its ban on homosexuality and gay sex. However, the UK government still believes that Macharia is safe to return home.

“Whilst same-sexual activity between men has been criminalised with a penalty of up to 21 years in prison this law is rarely applied and the objective evidence does not establish that LGBT persons are likely to be subjected to persecution or serious harm,” said the Home Office in a letter.

Friends and teammates have come out in support of Macharia who came to the UK in 2009 as an engineering student. He was given a work visa but has since been repeatedly rejected and he was even detained within a detention centre last year before being released pending an appeal.

Bristol Bisons captain Murray Jones said, “It’s been devastating for everyone, particularly Ken. He’s really depressed. It’s been a roller-coaster ride for three years now”.

In November, Macharia’s teammates rallied around him and led more than 100,000 people to sign a petition urging government to grant him asylum.

Macharia told The Guardian that the ordeal has left him “feeling depressed” and “hopeless at the moment”.

Macharia now fears being targeted because his case has made headlines in Kenya and around the world.

Home Office’s latest decision comes at a time when many of the Bristol Bisons are away in Dublin and unable to support him. Jones says the timing is “sneaky”.

“The Home Office are quite sneaky, they have timed it,” he said. “Trump’s in the country taking all the media presence, and we have a tournament in Dublin this weekend so half the team’s away. Nothing happened for six months despite Ken’s lawyers repeatedly asking them to give a response [to the appeal], and now this”.