Gay rugby player living in the UK just can’t catch a break.
Last month, we introduced you to the story of Kenneth Macharia. Macharia, who is openly gay, was born in Kenya where homosexuality is illegal, but moved to the UK on a student visa in 2009. He was then granted extensions twice, as a student and then a highly skilled migrant. Later, the 28-year-old mechanical engineer applied for asylum, but KRTV reports that his 2016 application was rejected in November.
Macharia has asked for his application for asylum to be judged a second time, but a new problem is now arising as he waits it out.
Macharia has been paying council tax for his studio flat in Glastonbury, Somerset. After his deportation notice, Macharia was told that he couldn’t work. To help pay the tax while he’s jobless, Macharia looked into a council-tax discount. Mendip district council offers aid of up to 80% for people of a working age. Unfortunately, Macharia is no longer eligible.
According to the Guardian, Macharia has received notice the week before Christmas that he isn’t entitled to the discount because he might be deported.
“The council has decided that you are not entitled to support because you do not have the right to remain. While your asylum application is being processed, you fail the immigration control test which means you are disqualified for council tax support and you do not meet any of the exceptions which may allow you to claim.”
Kenneth Macharia is in a tough spot right now. He can’t work because the British Home Office won’t allow it, so he can’t afford to pay his council tax. On top of that, his deportation status blocks him from seeking the aid he needs to keep his home. This could eventually leave Macharia homeless.
“I am not eligible for any support,” said Macharia to the Guardian, “The Home Office only supports asylum seekers after they are destitute and homeless. It takes a while after becoming homeless for them to offer accommodation. I didn’t want to become homeless.”
“I thought it was quite straightforward considering I’m not allowed to work. I thought they would be more understanding and give me a discount and say I don’t need to pay council tax.
“It’s a box-ticking exercise. The council are just looking at their regulations and completely do not care about the effect that has.”
For now, Macharia is relying on financial help from his 69-year-old mother, Jacinta, who works as an agency nurse. She has been paying for his £365 monthly rent plus bills while her son Kenneth waits for the Home Office to decide his fate.
This is just the latest in Macharia’s struggles since his application for asylum was rejected. That rejection led to him being detained at the Colnbrook Immigration Center near Heathrow airport.
Thankfully, Macharia is a devoted member of the gay and inclusive rugby team the Bristol Bisons. After hearing of his situation, the Bristol Bisons started campaigning to have Macharia’s asylum request relooked at. This is especially because homosexuality is illegal in the country and citizens often attack gay men as well.
“There is a lot of mob justice that takes place in Kenya because the police are generally inefficient and the general public have a habit of taking the law into their own hands,” Macharia noted in an interview with BBC radio.
Eventually, Macharia was released from the detainment center while his application for asylum is being readdressed. That said, he is now dealing with the new issue of his financial dilemma.
We’ll keep you updated as Kenneth Macharia’s situation continues.
According to BBC News, two anonymous donors have come forward to pay Macharia's Council tax bill.
He said: "I didn't expect it but two people have come forward to pay it."