Yew Fook Sam. (Change.org)
A 67-year-old man who the Home Office said wasn’t “gay enough” to stay in the UK has received an early Christmas present – asylum status from the government.
Yew Fook Sam, known as Sam, lives in Kirkby, Liverpool, and has lived in fear of being deported to Malaysia, where homosexuality is illegal, for the past three years.
When he heard about being granted asylum, Sam told the Liverpool Echo: “I am so happy. I was crying and screaming with joy when I got the phone call from my lawyer. This will be my best Christmas ever!”
Home Office officials had previously said that they believed Sam was lying about being gay in order to stay in the UK, using the fact that he doesn’t have a boyfriend as evidence.
Sam said he tried to tell them that at his age, he doesn’t need sex.
He added: “I was so disappointed and depressed after being told that I was not gay. How can I prove it?”
A campaign led by his friends at St Bride’s Church in Percy Street, Liverpool – where Sam is part of the Open Table LGBTQIA+ worship community – and promoted by the Echo saw more than 5,000 people sign an online petition urging the Home Office to reconsider.
Sam said he’d lived a lie in Malaysia, marrying a woman at the age of 30 and fathering two children.
But when his wife learnt that he was gay, in 1988, she left him and took their children to the US. Sam hasn’t seen his kids since.
“It’s been such a joy to work with Sam and I am delighted that he has this lovely Christmas present,” said Helene Santamera, an immigration lawyer at the Immigration Advice Service in Liverpool.
“Through his bravery, he has now created a pathway for others who are facing outdated and oversimplified ideas about sexuality.
“And I think the Echo story clinched asylum for him, because it was picked up by so many other papers – including in Malaysia, which would have confirmed the point about the dangers he could face.”
Sam said: “I have been photographed on gay marches here [the UK] and I would be in danger of being arrested – and attacked by members of the public. I fear I could be killed if I had to go back.”
Sam, who arrived in the UK in 2005 on a tourist visa and remained in the south of England, working, until he was arrested in 2016, is studying tourism at the City of Liverpool College with a view to being a tour guide.
“I am so happy here – Liverpool people are so kind and welcoming,” he said.
Sam has been granted asylum for five years, the standard time. One month before this ends, he will become eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.