A gay rugby player fighting deportation to Kenya, where he says he will be persecuted because of his sexuality, is facing a new setback after being ordered to pay hundreds of pounds in council tax, even though he is not allowed to work.
Kenneth Macharia, who plays for Bristol Bisons, a gay and inclusive rugby club, was allowed to leave the immigration centre where he was being held on bail last month while the Home Office considers his case.
Meanwhile, the 38-year-old has been hit with a £219 council-tax bill to cover from January until March 2019.
The mechanical engineer, who has lived in the country for a decade, was stopped from working in June when he exhausted his appeal rights over his original asylum application in 2016. More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Home Office to halt his removal.
Macharia had been paying council tax for his studio flat in Glastonbury, Somerset until October, when he discovered he could apply for a council-tax discount because he was out of work. Mendip district council says it offers a council tax support discount of up to 80% for a person of working age.
However, a week before Christmas he received a letter from the council stating: “The council has decided that you are not entitled to support because you do not have the right to remain. While 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.”
Macharia, who has received repeated letters demanding he pay the council tax, has no income and while his application is considered, is surviving on handouts from his 69-year-old mother, Jacinta, who is working extra shifts as an agency nurse. She suffers from arthritis and lives in sheltered housing. She is paying Macharia’s £365 monthly rent plus bills while he waits to hear from the Home Office about his case.
He told the Guardian: “I am not eligible for any support. The Home Office only supports asylum seekers after they are destitute and homeless. It takes a while after becoming homeless for them to offer accommodation. I didn’t want to become homeless.