Good for Kenneth Macharia!
41-year-old Kenneth Macharia won an appeal in the immigration tribunal against the U.K. Home Office on Monday, according to the Guardian. This decision comes after five years of court battles.
“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,” Macharia said in an official statement through his legal team, according to the Morning Star. “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.
He added, “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.”
— Bristol Bisons RFC (@bisonsrfc) July 19, 2021
We first reported on Macharia’s situation in 2018. Originally born in Kenya, Kenneth Macharia moved to the UK on a student visa in 2009. Afterward, he was granted extensions twice, once as a student and once as a highly-skilled migrant. Then in 2016, Macharia applied for asylum but was rejected in 2018. He was then detained at the Colnbrook Immigration Center in November of 2018.
After hearing the news, Macharia’s teammates within the Bristol Bisons, a gay and inclusive rugby team in the Southwest of England, sprang to action. The team started petitions, talked on radio shows, posted on social media, and did whatever they could to get the word out about their teammate.
“We believe his safety and wellbeing is in grave risk if his deportation were to go ahead and we stand by him and support him in his desire to make a life for himself alongside his friends and teammates here in the United Kingdom,” said Phil Rogerson, the chairman of the rugby club, in a 2018 statement to iNews.
Some of the Bisons were invited to @bbcbristol and BBC Somerset early this morning to talk about Ken. The interview is available on demand from the BBC Radio Bristol website with @theemmabritton this morning for anyone wanting to here what we had to say. #bigeese pic.twitter.com/BBaFPmIpi2
— Bristol Bisons RFC (@bisonsrfc) November 20, 2018
In the end, the Bristol Bisons raised enough awareness that 180,000 people signed a petition calling for the Home Office to let Macharia stay. The concern is that Kenya is still working under Section 165, a law from British colonial rule that prohibits “carnal knowledge against the order of nature.” And in 2019, a Kenyan high court ruled to uphold the criminalization of gay sex. While the law isn’t always enforced, it is occasionally used as an excuse to terrorize the gatherings of LGBTQ people. In addition, several straight/cis people in the country take it upon themselves to act as vigilantes and gay bash LGBTQ citizens.
With that in mind, the recent announcement of Kenneth Macharia’s court victor has come with tremendous applause. Though, some of the Home Office’s outdated and out-of-touch information about LGBTQ life in Kenya worried Macharia’s barrister, Dr. S Chelvan of 33 Bedford Row chambers.
“Judge Mensah made clear the tribunal’s concern that the Home Office’s April 2020 report on Kenya did not accurately reflect the risk to gay men in Kenya,” Chelvan said after the win. “In light of the independent chief inspector’s published recommendations last September, the home secretary should use this opportunity to review the operation and management of the country policy information team, in order to ensure accurate and reliable refugee claim decision-making by the Home Office.”
Meanwhile, a government spokesperson said, in an official statement, “This government has a proud record of providing protection for asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We are reforming the asylum system so it is fair but firm, welcoming those who come to the UK through safe and legal routes.”