A gay rugby player fearing persecution in his birth nation of Kenya was just denied an asylum request by the United Kingdom.
Kenneth Macharia, who first came to the U.K. on a student visa in 2009, was told he must leave the nation “without delay,” The Guardian reports.
The Bristol Bruins player told the newspaper he is “feeling hopeless at the moment.”
As recently as November, the situation looked far more positive for Macharia. The U.K.’s Home Office at that point canceled a previous deportation notice. At that time, Macharia had been held at that time at a detention center near London’s Heathrow Airport and feared any day he could be put on a plane to Kenya.
The soccer star fears persecution based on his sexuality should he return to his homeland. While Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he will not allow the torture of LGBTQ individuals, the country has greenlit anal exams to supposedly confirm whether individuals are gay or bisexual. Gay sex remains a felony in Kenya.
The nation has seen a number of struggles over its leadership, but Kenyatta won re-election in May.
The British Home Office acknowledged Macharia could face criminal charges for being out, and that such a “crime” brings a decades-long prison sentence in Kenya. But officials say the risk to Macharia is not extreme.
“Whilst same-sexual activity between men has been criminalised with a penalty of up to 21 years in prison this law is rarely applied and the objective evidence does not establish that LGBT persons are likely to be subjected to persecution or serious harm,” officials wrote in a letter to Macharia’s solicitor.
Macharia first claimed asylum in 2016. As a mechanical design engineer, he has also requested an extension to his visa as a skilled worker.