A man who was told he was not gay enough to stay in the UK has been given an early Christmas present – asylum status.

Yew Fook Sam, 67, who is simply known as Sam and lives in Kirkby, feared deportation to Malaysia, where homosexuality is illegal, and being thrown in jail, attacked or killed.

He told the 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 believed he had lied about his sexuality in order to remain here, citing the fact he does not have a male partner as evidence.

But Sam told the ECHO in February: “I tried to tell the Home Office ‘I am 67. I don’t need sex’.”

Yew 'Sam' Fook, 67, who is an asylum seeker that is in danger of being deported to Malaysia. Photo by James Maloney

He also said: “I was so disappointed and depressed after being told that I was not gay. How can I prove it?”

Now, though, he has got the news he had been craving, following 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.

"Its online petition was signed by almost 5,000 people.

Sam said he had lived a lie in Malaysia, where he got married at the age of 30 and had two children. He says his wife left him in 1988, after discovering he was gay. She took their children to the USA, and he has had no contact with them since.

The ECHO’s story highlighting his plight was seen as being key to him being granted asylum.

Helene Santamera, an immigration lawyer at the Immigration Advice Service in Liverpool, said: “It’s been such a joy to work with Sam and I am delighted that he has this lovely Christmas present. Through his bravery, he has now created a pathway for others who are facing outdated and oversimplified ideas about sexuality.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 had said: “I have been photographed on gay marches here 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.”

A beaming Sam, who is a volunteer for Asylum Link and is studying tourism at the City of Liverpool College with a view to being a tour guide, added: “I have so many people to thank, including Warren Hartley and Kieran Bohan of the Open Table group at St Bride’s, Nicholas Campbell at Open Table in Manchester, everyone who signed the petition, my housemate Sonny, Helene Santamera, and the ECHO – for telling my story, which then went around the world.

Yew Fook Sam, aka Sam, at the Liverpool Pride Festival in 2018

“I am so happy here – Liverpool people are so kind and welcoming.”

Warren Hartley, of Open Table Liverpool, said: “The ECHO story made a huge difference, and we are delighted with the outcome for Sam’s sake – and to see that weight lifted from his shoulders.”

Sam arrived in this country in 2005 on a visit visa, and remained – working in the south of England. In 2016, he was arrested for working illegally and detained for 10 months in an immigration centre before being housed in Home Office accommodation in Liverpool in 2017 and, later, Kirkby.

As we reported in February, in documents we had seen, a judge sitting at a First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) said: “Taking all of the evidence in the round, I do find the appellant is not a homosexual as he claims.”

And, in refusing an appeal, a judge of the Upper Tribunal stated that the original judge “provided detailed and cogent reasons for finding that the appellant’s account of his sexuality was not a genuine and credible one, identifying numerous inconsistencies and discrepancies in his account...”

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But now the Home Office has sent Sam a letter which contains the words he has been longing to hear since 2016: “You have been granted asylum in the United Kingdom.”

He has, as is standard, been granted asylum for five years.

One month before the end of this period, he will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.