Kenneth Macharia: Bristol Bisons rugby player wins five-year battle for UK asylum

Kenneth Macharia, the Bristol Bisons rugby player who faced deportation to Kenya by the Home Office, has won his five-year battle for the right to asylum in the UK.

The 41-year-old, who was born in Kenya but has lived in Britain for over a decade, learned on Friday that the Home Office will no longer be pursuing its case against him and that his asylum appeal has been allowed by an Immigration Judge.

Macharia came to the UK in 2009 on a student visa to study mechanical engineering, and his subsequent visas – post-graduate and work – were extended on several occasions.

As an openly gay man, he decided it would not be safe for him to return to Kenya, so he claimed asylum in May 2016.

The club photographer and a player with Bristol Bisons RFC – an LGBTQ+-inclusive rugby club in the city – his case came to national attention in 2018 when the Home Office issued a removal notice and 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.

He was released, but in June 2019, he was informed by the Home Office that they would continue to pursue his deportation.

However, after two further years of uncertainty, a tribunal determined last month that Macharia should be granted refugee status.

On Monday his solicitors confirmed the Home Office had not lodged an appeal against the positive tribunal determination.

In a statement, 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.”

Macharia was not allowed to work while his case was in progress. As well as the community support, his former employer also highlighted their desire to employ him due to his engineering skills.

The Bisons also issued a statement earlier. It said: “We can very happily announce that Ken has been granted Refugee status in the UK, meaning he can live and work here for the foreseeable future.

“Thank you to everyone who has offered their time, money and support throughout the fight.”

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