A rugby team in Bristol is calling on the Home Office to halt the deportation of one of its gay team members to Kenya, arguing he faces homophobic persecution and violence there.
Kenneth Macharia, 38, from, could be deported “at any time” after being detained on Thursday when his request for asylum was rejected by the Home Office.
It comes after a judge ruled Mr Macharia could live openly as a gay man in Kenya, despite sex between men being punishable by up to 21 years in prison and reports of homophobic mob violence across the conservative African country.
A petition set up by amateur rugby club the Bristol Bisons that calls on Sajid Javid, the home secretary, to intervene had gained more than 6,000 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.
The majority of players in the Bisons are gay and the club describes itself as “inclusive”.
Mr Macharia came to the UK as a student to study mechanical engineering in 2009, before getting a work visa.
He told The Independent it took him some time to come out as gay after arriving in England as he feared violent reprisals previously anticipated in the east African nation.
“I was surprised to see that the judge said a gay person can live openly in Kenya,” he said.
“There is a high risk of mob violence. There are criminals who try to blackmail people online.
“By going back to Kenya I would have to hide who I am.”
Mr Macharia worked as a design engineer until he was forced to stop working when his request for asylum was denied earlier this year.
His mother, a nurse who lives in Bristol, had to take on extra shifts to help him pay his rent, he said.
Mr Macharia said he felt guilty about his mother’s sacrifice and said he had grown depressed as his case had “dragged on”.
He suffered from bouts of anxiety while waiting for letters from authorities and was trying to cope with his situation through medication, positive thinking, meditation and exercise.
Now, held in an immigration detention centre in Heathrow, Mr Macharia said: “I’ve never been to prison so it feels like prison to me. I’m worried about what happens next.”