A gay rugby player and his club in the UK are celebrating after he was granted asylum, winning a years-long legal battle against deportation to Kenya.
Ken Macharia moved to the UK to study in 2009. Working as a mechanical engineer, he later sought asylum, fearing persecution if he returned to Kenya.
This month the 41-year-old has been granted refugee status after a years-long legal fight.
In 2018, authorities detained him and a year later threatened him with immediate deportation. Macharia then appealed.
He feared returning to Kenya, where homosexual activity is illegal and punishable with jail. A Kenyan court upheld that law in 2019.
Hostility and violence towards LGBTIQ people also remains rife in the African country.
This month an immigration judge ruled in Macharia’s favour, allowing him to stay in the UK.
She ruled gay men in Kenya face “discriminatory laws that create a hostile environment in which gay men are exposed to a real risk of discrimination.”
Ken Macharia can now ‘live a full life’
After the win, Ken Macharia said he will now be able to “live a full life”.
However he said after the stress of the years-long process, the decision would take time to sink in.
“When I tell people close to me the news, they are jumping with joy and excitement. I put on a smile and pretend to share the same level of enthusiasm,” he said.
“It’s been a very long struggle, since 2016.
“I have had my hopes crushed too many times. I can’t help wondering what will go wrong.
“The sadness has not gone away. I used to be optimistic. It will be a while before I am again.
“I am very grateful for all the support I have received. Very many people came to my aid at my time of need.
“Thanks to each and every one of you. It will take me a bit of time to truly believe this nightmare is over and be at the same level of enthusiasm as you.”
Gay rugby club campaigned to ‘Keep Ken Home’
Ken Macharia’s rugby club, the Bristol Bisons RFC, rallied to support him.
They started their “Keep Ken Home” campaign in 2018. A petition calling for him to stay also received 180,000 signatures.
“[Our campaign] increased in intensity in 2019 when Ken was threatened with immediate removal from the country,” the Bisons said.
“We are delighted our very own Ken has won his asylum appeal and refugee status.
“We’d like to thank everyone for their continued support throughout the past couple of years.”
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