No arrest for gay rugby player fearing deportation to Kenya

A gay rugby player has been given a reprieve after losing his deportation battle and being ordered to leave the UK.

Ken Macharia, who moved to Britain a decade ago, faces being sent back to Kenya, where homosexual activity is illegal and can be punished with heavy jail sentences.

Earlier this week he received a letter from the Home Office rejecting his asylum claim and feared he would be detained when he attended Bridgwater police station in Somerset on Thursday.

The 39-year-old, who is on bail from an immigration removal centre, was joined at the police station by friends from the LGBTQ-inclusive Bristol Bisons RFC.

In a statement, the rugby club said: “We are ecstatic to announce that Ken was not detained today when he had to check into Bridgwater police centre this morning.

“A huge thank you to the 60-plus people that turned up to support Ken, some travelling from as far as London to help.

“This is a small victory but we must continue the fight. We will not rest until Ken is safe and granted asylum here, at his home, where he belongs.”

Mr Macharia fears mob violence or blackmail in the east African nation where the Foreign Office warns gay British travellers that holding hands or kissing in public could lead to imprisonment.

Ken Macharia with his Bristol Bisons RFC team-mates
Ken Macharia with his Bristol Bisons RFC team-mates (Ben Birchall/PA)

The mechanical engineer, who came to the UK to study for a masters degree, has been fighting deportation for three years.

Earlier this week, Mr Macharia, who lives in Glastonbury, said he hoped the Home Office decision would be subject of a judicial review.

He added: “I am kind of feeling hopeless and depressed and like life has got very, very bad.”

Mr Macharia has previously told how he had to convince officials of his sexuality with a wealth of evidence before trying to prove the danger he faces as a gay man in Kenya.

A petition to end his deportation has more than 100,000 signatures, including that of broadcaster Stephen Fry.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said earlier this week: “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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