Two anonymous donors have come forward to pay the tax bill of a 38 year old gay asylum seeker in the UK after he was denied tax support from his local council.
Kenneth Macharia, who plays for LGBTI inclusive rugby team the Bristol Bisons, isn’t legally allowed to work while his asylum application is being processed by the British Home Office, according to The Guardian.
In October he discovered he could apply for a council tax discount due to being out of work, but unfortunately earlier this month he received a letter from the council informing him he didn’t qualify for support.
“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 letter reads.
But two people have come forward to cover the costs after his plight drew media coverage.
“I didn’t expect it but two people have come forward to pay it,” he told BBC News.
“They contacted the team chairman and they’ve paid until June next year.”
Macharia has lived in the UK since 2009, initially arriving on a student visa which was later extended twice, first as a student then again as a highly skilled migrant. He claimed asylum in May 2016, arguing he would be persecuted in his home country Kenya, where homosexuality is criminalised and can be punished with up to 14 years in prison.
He was released from the immigration centre he was being held in last month on bail, and is being largely supported by his mother Jacinta, a 69 year old British citizen and agency nurse with arthritis who lives in sheltered housing.
“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,” Macharia told The Guardian.
“I thought it was quite straightforward considering I’m not allowed to work. I thought they would be more understanding and give me a discount and say I don’t need to pay council tax.”
A Mendip district council spokeswoman spoke to The Guardian, saying, “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.”
According to a PinkNews report, in the UK the success rate of claims of asylum on the basis of sexuality is very low, with only 289 of 1,436 claims made between October 2015 – September 2016 being granted.
LGBTI asylum seekers often face difficulty in proving their sexuality due to the high threshold of documented evidence required in a number of cases, with the process in some countries relying on stereotypes and misinformation to categorise people’s sexuality.
In 2017 Australia denied asylum to gay refugees because they were deemed not to be effeminate enough, or couldn’t answer questions about Madonna and Oscar Wilde, for instance.
An estimated 30 – 40 gay or bisexual men are believed to be amongst the refugees who sought asylum in Australia currently living on Manus Island, where homosexuality is considered a crime.
Earlier this month the British Home Office granted asylum to a 30 year old gay man from Zimbabwe after receiving vocal support from his local LGBTI football club.
In November an online petition to stop the deportation of Kenneth Macharia was posted by a fellow member of the Bristol Bisons rugby club and has already garnered over 100,000 signatures.