Refugee status granted to gay Bristol rugby player after five year battle

Ken moved to the UK as a student in 2009. Credit: ITV West Country

Bristol Bisons rugby players, who faced deportation to Kenya by the Home Office, has been granted refugee status.

41-year-old Kenneth Macharia has lived in the UK since 2009 and claimed asylum in 2016 - on the grounds that as a gay man, it would not be safe for him to return to Kenya where homosexuality is illegal.

Bristol Bisons announced on social media today (19 July) that Kenneth, known as Ken, has "been granted refugee status, meaning he can live and work here for the foreseeable future."

He came to the UK from Kenya as a student ten years ago. Applications for leave to remain were repeatedly granted. But his asylum application in 2016 was refused and for the two years that followed, he was subjected to a long process of appeals and denials.

Then in 2018, immigration officers detained him with the intention of moving Ken back to Kenya. He was later granted bail and at the time, Bristol Bisons celebrated the news.

Kenneth Macharia was released from an immigration removal centre in November 2018. Credit: ITV West Country

On 16 July, Ken 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, Ken 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.

The Bisons helped gather over 180,000 signatures on their #KeepKenHome petition to the Home Secretary. Credit: ITV News

"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."