Yew Fook Sam, known as Sam, from Liverpool, Merseyside, has had his request for asylum rejected by the Home Office and fears he will now be detained and deported.
Sam is 67 years old, in poor physical health, and facing physical punishment or imprisonment if he is forced to return to Malaysia because he is openly gay. The Home Office has not accepted he is gay because he does not have a partner.
Sam has heard today that his request for a Judicial Review has been declined which exhausts his appeal avenues and leaves him very vulnerable to detention. More than 700 people have signed and shared a petition in support of his asylum claim – PLEASE consider signing and sharing here. Sam’s been bowled over by the support and isn’t giving up hope yet.
The following is an extract from the evidence I submitted in support of his appeal for the right to remain in the UK because his sexual orientation would put him at risk of discrimination, blackmail, imprisonment and physical violence if he were to be sent back to Malaysia:
I have been actively involved in supporting LGBT people in Liverpool for the last 15 years, especially in the Christian community. I now coordinate a network of 17 LGBT Christian worship communities called Open Table which meet across England and Wales. The first began at St Bride’s Liverpool in June 2008.
Sam began attending Sunday morning services at St Bride’s church in Spring 2017 when he was a resident at Birley Court on Percy Street (the same street as the church) which the Home Office provided, before they moved him to the Liverpool suburb of Kirkby. He still regularly attends services despite limited funds to travel the eighteen-mile round trip from Kirkby to Canning in Liverpool city centre and back.
As English is not Sam’s first language, he did not immediately understand that we offer a safe, affirming space for LGBT people to worship which meets twice a month at St Bride’s, known as Open Table. As Mr Yew Fook Sam is of Chinese heritage, he displayed a reluctance to ask for help at first, which is typical for his cultural background, until he met a woman also of Chinese heritage who encouraged him to ask for the help he needed. He began to get more involved in the church and in the community, and volunteered at the Liverpool Pride festival on 29th-30th July 2017, he saw that we had a community stall there and started attending Open Table meetings soon afterwards.
While he was helping to steward the Liverpool Pride march, several photos were taken of Sam walking in front of the St Bride’s / Open Table group (such as the one at the top of this post). Another photo like this has been published on the back cover of a book called God Loves Gays by Ken Harrow (published in November 2017), who has written of his experience of reconciling his Christian faith with his love for his two sons who are gay, and how he accompanied them to Liverpool Pride in July 2017 and saw the St Bride’s / Open Table group marching. I asked the author for a copy of this book to support Sam in his appeal for asylum.
It has been a delight to welcome Mr Yew Fook Sam to our church and the Open Table LGBT faith community. He has become an active and valued member of our community, attending both morning and evening services on Sundays when his health and finances allow. At Liverpool Pride in 2018 he walked with the Christians At Pride group alongside the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool. A number of photos of Sam at the event have been published online, including the Liverpool Echo website – see photo 10 on this page. If these images were seen by those who know Sam in Malaysia, they would increase his risk of harm if he were compelled to return.
We are aware that Sam has come from Malaysia. According to the LGBT rights charity Stonewall‘s Global Workplace Briefing on Malaysia in 2016, Malaysia is classified as a Zone 3 country, which means sexual acts between people of the same sex are illegal. Section 377A of the Malaysian Penal Code (a remaining British colonial law) criminalises ‘carnal intercourse’ between males, with a penalty of up to 20 years of imprisonment and whipping. State Sharia laws criminalise same-sex sexual acts with a penalty of fine, imprisonment and whipping. There are no laws on the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Article 8 of the Constitution provides for equality before the law for all citizens regardless of religion, race, descent, place of birth, or gender. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not included. All these laws make LGBT people vulnerable to blackmail, verbal and physical abuse and prevent them from being able to be themselves. The consequences for Mr Yew Fook Sam if he were to return to Malaysia are extremely serious, so much so that he has expressed the desire that he would rather kill himself than go back.
We are also concerned about the grounds on which his appeal was rejected, one of which was that Sam cannot be gay as he does not have a partner. Sam is 67 years old, in poor physical health with limited English and income. It would be very difficult for anyone in that situation to enter a relationship – we think this is an insufficient test of the validity of his sexual orientation. There are many people in later life who find themselves single, whatever their orientation. They do not cease to be gay, bisexual or straight because they do not have a partner.
In my experience of working within the LGBT community for more than fifteen years, I do not believe anyone would falsely claim to be LGBT simply to gain the right to remain in the UK, since it puts them at risk of discrimination and hate crime in this country, especially among their peers from different cultures in Home Office accommodation, and increases their risk of harm if sent back to the UK.
Sam fears for his life if he is deported – he has endured many years of living in secrecy and fear in a culture where asking for support and sharing intimate details of his sexual life is not only taboo, but dangerous. In my experience, people enduring such long-term distress can find it hard to share and trust those with whom they share to protect their privacy. This is a highly anxious ordeal for Sam – I believe he is only able to endure this because he hopes for a fair and just outcome based on the authenticity of his orientation and experience as a gay man – this has not changed for him throughout his life, but he is only now finding the freedom to express himself without fear and learn what it means to be gay without fear.
‘You don’t have to be a Christian to think that’s no way to treat people’Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, Rector, St Bride’s Liverpool – Listen below