December 23, 2019
A week ago today, Yew Fook Sam – known to his friends as Sam – found out he had been finally granted asylum in the UK. 
Gay Malaysian Pensioner Granted Asylum In Time For Christmas
“It’s the most amazing Christmas present ever,” said Sam, who was at college in his adopted city of Liverpool when he found out. “When I found out I couldn’t stop crying.”
A gay man from Malaysia, 67-year-old Sam had spent more than two years living under the threat of deportation. His case was first reported in the Liverpool Echo.
“I saw my lawyer’s number and my stomach sank,” he said. “I automatically thought it was going to be bad news.
“When she told me, I started screaming and couldn’t stop. It was the best moment.”
Sam travelled to London in 2005, from Malaysia, after his wife found out he was gay. 
As a hangover from British colonial rule, homosexuality is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment and those found guilty in some cases can also be punished under Sharia law. 
Away from the legal system, gay people also face huge social stigma and there have been reports of vigilante killings. 
When Sam arrived in the UK on a tourism visa he found an advertisement in a Chinese newspaper, which informed him that for £2,500 he could get the right identification and permissions to live and work in the UK. 
After making some enquiries within the Chinese community, he was told that £250 would get him a job in a London restaurant, with which he could pay off the £2,750 debt. 
“I would call it human trafficking now,” he says. “The money I earned went straight to my boss to pay off my debts. I didn’t see any money myself.” 
It took him a year of work to pay back that debt, he said, after which he made his way to Looe in Cornwall, where he worked for another Chinese restaurant, mostly as a takeaway driver, for almost a decade. 
“I was happy there,” he said. “Everyone used to call me Uncle Sammy – we used to do lots of things for charity and we’d have children come in from the nearby schools, they all knew me. 
“I watched lots of them grow up and they used to say ‘hello Uncle Sammy’ whenever they saw me.” It was at this restaurant that Sam was arrested in 2016, detained after police arrived there in search of another man. When the papers Sam gave officers were found to be out of date, he was taken into custody in London. 
As it turns out, Sam is somewhat of an organiser. Wherever he goes, he says, he loves working as a group, finding ways to make his situation better – including during a 10-month stint in detention. 
“Losing my freedom was very hard,” he explains. “I tried not to to think too much about being trapped, but it was difficult not knowing how long it would last.
“The days were OK – there was a big Chinese community in the centre and I would gather them together. I even asked the staff there to let us cook one Chinese meal a week. 
“I used to go to all the meetings and I think the guards and even the bosses respected me.” 
He was released from Harmondsworth immigration removal centre in February 2017 on bail and has since been applying and re-applying to stay, supported via legal aid by Helene Santamera, an immigration lawyer at the Liverpool Immigration Advice Service.
He estimates applying as many as “seven or eight times”, with proceedings reaching the tribunal stage.
“I stood in the courtroom and told the judge that I would rather jump from a building or in front of a train than go back to Malaysia,” Sam explains. 
“For me, it was better to die in this country than to go back to Malaysia – my parents are both dead, my ex-wife and our children have moved away, I am too old to get a job and the house my family lived in has been bulldozed for a new housing estate. 
“There was nothing for me there except prison, bullying, and maybe death.” 
His case attracted attention both in Liverpool and nationwide after his application was turned down on the basis of what the Home Office claimed was a lack of proof he was gay as he didn’t have a partner.
During a hearing, a judge told Sam that he found his claims of being gay “incredible”, The Guardian reported.
The Liverpool Echo reported in February that a judge sitting at a first-tier tribunal at the Immigration and Asylum Chamber had said: “Taking all of the evidence in the round, I do find the appellant is not a homosexual as he claims.”
With the help of his legal representatives, Sam appealed. However, a judge at Upper Tribunal said the original judge had “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.”
Sam told HuffPost UK: “I tried to tell them: ‘I’m 67, I don’t need sex, just want companionship,’” he explains. “And how would I meet anyone? I rely on foodbanks. I have no money. I couldn’t even go out for a drink.” 
Living in a shared house provided by the Home Office with two fellow asylum seekers in Kirkby, Merseyside, Sam has been living off about £5 a day since being released from detention. 
Among the many individuals and groups to have helped him is St Bride’s Church in Liverpool, which he visits regularly and is home to LGBT+ groups such as Open Table, with which he volunteers twice a week.  Backed by the church, a huge campaign was launched to save Sam from deportation, including a petition that reached almost 5,000 signatures. 
“The support means so much – I don’t know how or even if I would have survived without the help I have had,” he said,
“People have fought for me all the way. There were times when I just felt like giving up, but my friends at St Bride’s told me to keep battling though, I will get there in the end. 
“I am so grateful because look now. I did.” 
Now enrolled at the City of Liverpool College, Sam is studying a level 2 qualification in travel and tourism – alongside British Sign Language – and now he has been granted asylum status, is now able to apply for the student loan he needs to study at a higher level. 
He has been given permission to stay for five years, after which he can apply for indefinite leave to remain, and his friends at St Bride’s are planning to help him move into the city to be closer to both his college and church. 
In Malaysia he had worked as a tour guide – a job he loved and hopes one day to return to, showing people around the city he has come to call home. 
“I hope one day you will be able to find me, maybe outside the town hall, where I will be doing a tour of my own,” he says. 
“I will be very happy.” Related... The Reaction To Stormzy's Comments On Racism In Britain Only Prove Him Right I Left Increasingly Right-Wing Britain And Now I Don't Know If I Will Ever Return Home Windrush Victim Brands Home Office's £22,000 Compensation Offer 'An Insult'
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
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Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
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The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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