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 Shepton Mallet in Somerset, could be deported “at any time” after being detained 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 quickly gained more than 6,000 signatures.
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.”
Gay sex is illegal in Kenya under vaguely-worded British colonial-era laws known as Sections 162 and 165. LGBT+ campaigners also warn gay people are subject to police harassment and threats of anal examinations.
Kenya’s vice president, William Ruto, has said there is “no room” for gay people in Kenya.
Meanwhile the director of the country’s media office, Ezekiel Mutua, who decides what is permissible on television, earlier banned a film about two women who fall in love, saying it “seeks to overtly promote lesbianism”.