A GAY rugby player fearing deportation has won the right to remain in the UK after being granted refugee status.

Ken Macharia, 41, who moved to Britain more than a decade ago, faced being sent back to Kenya, where homosexual activity is illegal and can be punished with heavy jail sentences.

READ MORE: Gay rugby player Ken Macharia fighting deportation calls on Home Secretary for help to stay in Somerset

A campaign was launched by the LGBTQ-inclusive Bristol Bisons RFC, where Mr Macharia, who came to the UK to study for a master’s degree, is a club member.

A first-tier tribunal of the immigration and asylum chamber upheld Mr Macharia’s appeal against deportation.

A judge found he would be at “real risk of serious harm as a gay man” and that his “human rights would be breached” were he to be removed from the UK.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Macharia, who is from Glastonbury, said: “When I tell people close to me the news, they are jumping with joy and excitement, I put on a smile and pretend to share the same level of enthusiasm.

“It’s been a very long struggle, since 2016. I have had my hopes crushed too many times. I can’t help wondering what will go wrong.

“The sadness has not gone away. I used to be optimistic. It will be a while before I am again.

“I am very grateful for all the support I have received. Very many people came to my aid at my time of need.

“The list is very long, some I know, some I don’t. Thanks to each and everyone of you.

“It will take me a bit of time to truly believe this nightmare is over and be at the same level of enthusiasm as you.”

In a statement, Bristol Bisons said: “We are delighted to announce that, after five years of battling with the UK Home Office – a fight which was increased in intensity in 2019 when Ken was threatened with immediate removal from the country – our very own Ken has won his asylum appeal and been granted refugee status.

“Many of you will remember, around two years ago, the Bisons were making headlines in our fight to keep one of our own, Ken, from being deported to Kenya over concerns for his safety.

“We’d like to thank everyone for their continued support throughout the past couple of years.

“This latest ruling, and confirmation that the Home Office will not appeal the decision, means that Ken has the right to live and work in the UK for the foreseeable future.

“So once again, thank you to everyone who has offered their time, money and support throughout the fight.”

Mr Macharia feared mob violence or blackmail in the east African nation where the Foreign Office warns gay British travellers that holding hands or kissing in public could lead to imprisonment.