Gay Kenyan man gets asylum in the United Kingdom

Kenneth Macharia has been battling deportation for five years.

The mechanical engineer, who travelled to the UK to study for a Masters degree has been fighting deportation for 5 years (COURTESY: SKY SPORTS)

A Kenyan man who faced deportation from the United Kingdom (UK) has won the right to asylum in Britain.

Kenneth Macharia, born and raised in Kenya moved to the UK in 2009 to study for a degree in mechanical engineering at the the University of the West of England.

Once he finished his degree he got a post-graduate visa which gave him the opportunity to get work experience in the UK before coming back home.

It was at this period that life became tough for the openly gay man. In 2012 Theresa May, who was the Conservative Home Secretary at the time, introduced the Hostile Environment Policy saying that: "The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants."

“The problem came when I saw my work visa was going to expire. I looked at the requirements to renew it, and realised the Home Office had raised the salary requirements above what I was earning,” revealed Macharia in an interview with the Morning Star, a UK based newspaper.

The implementation of the Hostile Environment Policy meant that Macharia would be forced to return to the country of his birth. As a gay man that would be equivalent to signing a death wish.

In Kenya, homosexuality is illegal. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) persons are not recognised in the constitution hence face jailtime of up to 14 years per Section 162 of the Kenyan Penal Code.

“I did a Google search and found a Home Office document that said ‘being unable to live openly and freely as a gay man is a basis for claiming asylum in the UK’,” Macharia revealed.

However, things did not go as planned for him. The British Home Office rejected his asylum. “I was really, really surprised when I got the reply from the Home Office. The first thing they said was they didn’t believe I was a gay man.

“When I came over to the UK, I had sponsored my partner at the time to come and join me. And the Home Office had given him a visa to come and join me in Britain as my partner.

He launched an appeal in December 2016 and, though the judge agreed Macharia was honest about his sexuality, he upheld the government’s rejection by making the claim that LGBTQ+ people in Kenya can live openly and freely without the risk of prosecution.

Macharia who is also a Bristol Bisons rugby player as well as club photographer saw his case come to Britain's national attention in 2018 when the Home Office detained him while deportation plans were made.

The Bisons rallied to support their friend and team-mate, securing over 180,000 signatures on a petition to the Home Secretary and crowdfunding to pay for Macharia's legal fees.

In June 2019, he was released from Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre in London but was informed through a letter that the Home Office would continue pursuing his deportation.

The letter said, “you have no basis to stay in the United Kingdom and you are expected to make arrangements to leave the United Kingdom without delay.”

For two years, Macharia has been living a life full of uncertainty until last week. On Friday, 16 July, he learnt the Home Office would no longer pursue the case against him and his asylum appeal was allowed by an Immigration Judge.

In a statement released via 33 Bedford Row, the law firm representing him, Macharia said: "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.

"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. The list is very long - some I know, some I don't.

"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."

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