The government is facing renewed calls for an independent inquiry into the treatment of asylum seekers in Glasgow, Scotland, after a mother was found dead in her flat, next to her malnourished baby.
Mercy Baguma, from Uganda, was an asylum seeker in her thirties who lived in the Govan area of Glasgow. According to Positive Action in Housing, a Glasgow-based human rights charity, when police discovered Baguma’s body on the 22nd of August, “Her one-year-old baby son was found crying beside his mother’s body, weakened from several days of starvation.”
The child was rushed to hospital on Monday and later released, according to the charity. His father is now caring for him. The father is understood to be an asylum seeker from a different country, living elsewhere in Glasgow.
“We understand that she lost her job after her limited leave to remain expired and she was no longer allowed to work,” said the charity. “After living in extreme poverty, she claimed asylum. She was relying on food from friends and charitable organisations.”
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police received a report of the sudden death of a 34-year-old woman… in Glasgow around 11.30AM on Saturday, 22 August, 2020. The death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not suspicious.”
This is the third tragic incident involving asylum seekers in Glasgow in recent months. Syrian refugee Adnan Walid Elbi was found dead in his room at the McLays Guest House on Renfrew Street in May. In June, asylum seeker Badreddin Abadlla Adam attacked six fellow residents of the Park Inn hotel with a knife, before police officers shot him dead.
In July, VICE News reported on allegations of awful conditions in the hotel that Badreddin Abadlla Adam was living in before he launched his attack.
The incidents follow the controversial decision by Mears Housing – the group charged with housing 350 asylum seekers in Glasgow – to uproot asylum seekers at short notice during lockdown and move them to hotels.
Robina Qureshi, Director of Positive Action in Housing, said: “The question remains: why are mothers and babies being left to go hungry in this city, and why is it being left to charities and volunteers to pick up the pieces? Does society have anything to say other than call them a drain on society?
“The fact is, there is no safety net if you are a refugee or migrant. You are left destitute and without resources, and people are being silenced and shamed by far-right rhetoric for being forced to ask for help.
“All our efforts since lockdown began have been focused on trying to help people just survive and retain hope. Home Office asylum policy has created unimaginable hardship for refugees and migrant households in this city.”
Qureshi demanded that Baguma’s death be investigated “alongside Adnan Walid Elbi, the Park Inn tragedy and the deadly accommodation crisis created by Mears’ insensitive hotel moves”.
On Monday, Glasgow MPs collectively sent a letter to the Immigration Minister, Chris Philip, also demanding a public, independent inquiry into the situation.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “This is a tragic situation and our condolences go to Ms Baguma’s family.
“The Home Office takes the wellbeing of all those in the asylum system extremely seriously, and we will be conducting a full investigation into Ms Baguma’s case.”
Positive Action in Housing is running a crowdfunder appeal to pay for Baguma’s burial.