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UK Officials Say Gay Kenyan Rugby Player Could Still Be Deported

Kenneth Macharia,
Bristol Bisons RFC

The Bristol Bisons athlete has lived in the United Kingdom more than nine years.

British officials said deportation could still be in the cards for an out rugby player who faces antigay persecution in his native nation of Kenya.

The Bristol Bisons, which bills itself as southwest England's only inclusive rugby team, updated fans through social media yesterday on the status of Kenneth Macharia. The athlete, who's been in conflict with Great Britain's Home Office about his status in the country, attended court yesterday.

"Although he has been released, his ability to remain in the U.K. has not been improved," the team announced. "The next steps will be judged in the coming days, so please keep sharing, tweeting and crowdfunding as we plan ahead."

The 38-year-old rugby player has lived in the United Kingdom for a decade. Counsel for Macharia argue his high-profile puts him at risk in Kenya should he be forced to leave the U.K. Homosexuality remains illegal in Kenya and is punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

The athlete's immediate removal has been cancelled and he was released on bail yesterday, but Judge Edward Woodcraft in court said he may still be deported.

"The fact I have released you on bail is not an indication that you will for ever more be allowed to stay in the United Kingdom," Woodcraft said in court, according to The Guardian.

Macharia spoke to reporters after being released and said he spent his entire time in custody concerned he would be immediately put on a plane and sent back to Africa.

"Due to the support I'm feeling a bit more hopeful for the future, but due to the way the Home Office is behaving they are not really showing me signs they will allow me to stay," he said.

Home Office officials did say the country considers asylum from persecution in its decision-making.

Several organizations including Lesbians and Gays Support The Migrants, the Bristol Bisons RFC, and Pride Without Borders have started a crowd funding effort to cover legal fees.

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