Somerset

Gay rugby player asylum seeker has council tax paid by strangers

Kenneth Macharia, member of Bristol Bisons RFC Image copyright Phillip Rogerson
Image caption Kenneth Macharia says he will be persecuted for being gay if he is deported to Kenya

A gay rugby player who was ordered to pay hundreds of pounds in council tax while fighting deportation to Kenya, has had his bill paid by two strangers.

Bristol Bisons player Kenneth Macharia, is claiming asylum, saying he fears "violence in Kenya" because he is gay.

But while the Home Office considers his case he has been given a council tax bill and told as an asylum seeker he is not eligible for council tax support.

He said: "I didn't expect it but two people have come forward to pay it."

'Not allowed to work'

Mr Macharia, a mechanical engineer, said he stopped working in June because he was not allowed to as an asylum seeker and has had to "live off" his 69-year-old mother, who is a nurse with British citizenship.

He said he was facing a £219 bill to cover council tax from January until March 2019 on his flat in Glastonbury, Somerset, which he said he was unable to pay without an income.

"I'm not allowed to work as an asylum seeker and my mother has had to take on extra hours to support me," he said.

"So I went to the council because I thought if you're not in work they would give me a discount but I was told I do not qualify as an asylum seeker."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kenneth Macharia could face imprisonment of up 14 years in Kenya for being gay

In a letter sent to Mr Macharia, Mendip District Council said it had decided he was not entitled to support because he "did not have the right to remain".

"Whilst your asylum application is being processed, you fail the immigration control test which means you are disqualified for council tax support and you do not meet any of the exceptions which may allow you to claim," the council said.

Mr Macharia said it was "disappointing" but two people had since come forward to pay his bill.

"They contacted the team chairman and they've paid until June next year," he said.

"I didn't expect it but the support gives me hope."

A council spokeswoman told The Guardian: "While we cannot comment on individual cases, we can confirm that where a person is currently seeking asylum, they do not meet the criteria for council tax support."

Under present rules, asylum seekers are only allowed to work if they have waited more than a year for a decision on their application, and are able to fill a role on the official "shortage occupation" list.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya and punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

More than 68,000 people have signed a petition to stop Mr Macharia from being deported and to grant him asylum.

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