Gay rugby player Kenneth Macharia freed but could still be deported to Kenya

'I am very fearful that if I go back to Kenya I will be made an example of and put in prison'

Catherine Wylie
Wednesday 28 November 2018 22:44
Kenneth Macharia has lived in the UK since 2009
Kenneth Macharia has lived in the UK since 2009

A gay rugby player who faces being deported to Kenya has said he is happy to be granted bail but remains worried about his future.

Ken Macharia, 38, who fears persecution in his homeland over his sexuality, was released from an immigration removal centre near Heathrow Airport on Wednesday evening.

The qualified engineer was greeted by team-mates from the LGBT+ inclusive Bristol Bisons rugby club.

He told reporters: "I'm very happy to be free and very grateful to all my friends and everyone else who has been supporting me."

Mr Macharia, who lives in Glastonbury, said the process is "scary", adding: "The level of support I'm receiving is giving me hope that I will be allowed to stay, but the Home Office kind of seem determined to remove me so that is still a worry."

He said walking out of the centre felt "very, very good", after a night of little sleep and anxiety.

"Because last night when I read the bail summary from the Home Office, I realised that they were still intent on removing me," he said. "So last night I did not have a good night's sleep because then I realised that if I don't get bail it will kind of be like every night they can come to my room, pick me up and put me on a plane at any time, which kind of was causing me to feel anxious."

Asked about the risk of harm he would face in Kenya, he said: "It's really scary because initially I was thinking if I was forced to moved from the UK I could hide who I am and lay low, but now that is not a possibility so I'm really worried about getting arrested and made an example of."

He added: "I am very fearful that if I go back to Kenya I will be made an example of and put in prison."

He said the government in his homeland was "really anti-LGBT".

At a bail hearing earlier, Judge Edward Woodcraft told Mr Macharia: "The fact I have released you on bail is not an indication that you will forever more be allowed to stay in the United Kingdom."

Mr Macharia appeared at an immigration tribunal in west London via video link from Harmondsworth removal centre where he has been held since Thursday 15 November.

He was wearing a black and pink Bristol Bisons RFC t-shirt and was supported at the bail hearing by his mother and team-mates from the amateur rugby club who wore the same t-shirts.

Leaving the hearing room, Mr Macharia's mother Jacinta smiled and said: "I'm so happy."

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Bristol Bisons captain Murray Jones was at the hearing and said he and his team mates are "elated" that Mr Macharia was granted bail.

Speaking to his team-mates by telephone before he left the centre, Mr Macharia said: "I am very happy that I have been released."

Even though he was granted bail, the hearing heard that his removal is still "imminent".

After the hearing, his friend of three years, and team-mate, Mr Jones, said: "It's been a roller coaster ride today with all of us in the court listening to Ken's case but we've come out and he's been granted bail.

"So we're past the first hurdle. We had a real wobble last night and a lot of people have rallied around on social media, media including everyone else, to help Ken out. And that's been a major advantage today for us to win this minor hurdle and the fact that he's been granted bail it doesn't mean that he gets to stay in this country at all, but it means it buys us time so we can get more support and more funds to make sure that he can be granted permanence in this country which is still overhanging."

The Home Office would not comment on the case, but a spokesman said the Government "has a proud record of providing protection for asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity".

Press Association

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