A gay rugby player has lost his battle to stay in the UK and faces deportation to Kenya – where holding hands or kissing in public can lead to imprisonment.
Ken Macharia moved to Britain a decade ago and is facing being sent back to Kenya where homosexual activity is illegal and punishable with heavy jail sentences.
Mr. Macharia, 39, came to the UK to study for a masters in 2009 and plays for the LGBTQ-inclusive rugby club Bristol Bisons.
The mechanical engineer has been fighting deportation for three years and is currently on bail from an immigration removal center. He has been barred from working for almost a year.
On Monday he received a letter from the Home Office which says he does “not qualify for leave on any basis” and he should make arrangements to leave the UK “without delay”.
Responding to the letter, Mr. Macharia said: “I am waiting to hear back from my lawyer. I am kind of feeling hopeless and depressed and like life has got very, very bad.”
He told his local paper, Bristol Post, that he wanted to call on the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, “as a Bristol man” to intervene and stop his deportation.
The player’s teammates have run campaigns to keep him in the country, which led to him being bailed in November from the removal center near Heathrow Airport, where he had been for two weeks.
He will have to check into a police station on Thursday morning as part of his bail conditions and his teammates have promised to go with him to support him.
Bristol Bisons captain Murray Jones said the decision is particularly worrying in light of a ruling in Kenya’s high court last month which upheld sections of British colonial-era laws that criminalize same-sex relations.
Mr Macharia has had to rely on his 70-year-old mother Jacinta working extra hours as a nurse to support him while he lives in Glastonbury, Somerset.
He has previously told of convincing officials that he is gay and having to prove he is in danger in the East African nation.
A petition to end his deportation was signed by 100,000 people including Stephen Fry. His supporters have also raised more than £8,000 through crowdfunding to help with the legal fees.
In a post on Instagram, the Bisons shared Mr. Macharia’s rejection letter and wrote: “It is with a heavy heart that Kenneth received this letter from the home office today and has been told he will not be allowed to stay home in the UK. The fight is not over and we need your support to keep Ken home with his friends and family.
“Please share and help support Ken in his continued fight to stay here. We will not give up. We will not let him be persecuted for being himself and for what we represent.”
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “This Government has a proud record of providing protection for asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“All available evidence is carefully and sensitively considered in light of published country information.
“All decisions on claims based on sexual orientation are subject to an additional safeguard reviewed by a second experienced caseworker.”
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