Asylum seeker Mercy Baguma was found dead next to her crying and starving one-year-old son in their Glasgow flat, where a charity says they were living in “extreme poverty” after the mum lost her legal right to work.
The heartbroken sister of tragic mum Mercy Baguma, who was found dead next to her baby son, has said she died “over a mere piece of paper”, it is reported.
Hajara Nakendo has blamed UK immigration laws for the tragedy and said grieving relatives in Ms Baguma’s native Uganda were “angry”.
Ms Baguma’s one-year-old son was found crying and starving next to her body in their flat in Glasgow on Saturday, with a charity saying the pair had been living in extreme poverty after the mum’s limited leave to remain expired and she was no longer allowed to work.
In a heartbreaking tribute on Facebook, Ms Nakendo, a human rights lawyer, suggested her younger sister was hiding a personal struggle, adding she “no longer has to endure the pain of this world”.
Ms Nakendo told the BBC that Ms Baguma’s death could have been avoided.
BBC Africa correspondent Catherine Byaruhanga, who interviewed the sister, told BBC Scotland’s The Nine: “Hajara told me she is quite angry.
“She wonders why her sister died for what she says was a mere piece of paper.
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“She’s calling for reforms of the UK’s immigration laws because she says there are other Mercys out there, people who have lost the right to work and go on to struggle.”
Ms Baguma’s family are now arranging for her body to be returned to Uganda.
Ms Nakendo wrote on Facebook: “Mercy was not only beautiful on the outside, she was a beautiful soul.
“She also saw the beauty in others. Mercy took her time, forming her own thoughts and opinions about the people and things around her.
“I called her my little pumpkin because she was so cute and sweet.
“Mercy was always smiling, bright, colorful, creative, and lived life to the fullest. Her personality was too big for this world to contain.
“Often we forget that those who are the happiest in life, also hide their pain the best. As happy as she seemed, she was no exception.”
Ms Nakendo said she was left wondering if her sister’s life would have turned out different had she returned home to Uganda.
She added: “I remind myself that she no longer has to endure the pain of this world. We all must find peace knowing that she is still a light in our hearts. Words cannot describe how much she will be missed.
“I had always thought I’d be able to see her grow into the beautiful woman that she was meant to be.
“I know there is something that she found to love in every one of us.
“We must remind ourselves that when we look for her, we can look to the stars at night and we can look into the eyes and hearts of everyone here and find a little piece of her.
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“In that sense she will live on forever.
“Tell people you love them more times than you think they should hear it, especially if you think they already know.
“I never got to tell Mercy just how important she was to me, although I know in my heart she felt it.
“Learn to appreciate the good times, because you never know when they will be your last good memories of some one.”
There were fears Ms Baguma may have been dead for up to three days before police discovered her body and her son alive after neighbours reported hearing his cries.
The mum had been living and working in Scotland for years, but is said to have lost her job after her limited leave to remain expired and she was no longer allowed to work.
She had applied for asylum and was living in such “extreme poverty” she could not afford food, according to the charity Positive Action in Housing (PAIH).
PAIH said Ms Baguma had asked for help just over a week before her body was found.
Her son was taken to hospital and was discharged on Monday. The boy is now being cared for by his father, who lives elsewhere in Glasgow, according to officials.
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The cause of Ms Baguma’s death has not been announced. Police Scotland said it was being treated as “unexplained but not suspicious”.
Her friends last heard from her on August 18, a day before a neighbour last saw her alive.
PAIH said Ms Baguma’s son was found “crying beside his mother’s body, weakened from starvation” on Saturday.
A neighbour previously told how she heard the baby crying the night before police entered the flat.
The neighbour, a 45-year-old mum, said officers banged on her door to ask for baby food or formula, and something warm to wrap the child in.
She gave police some milk and yoghurt to feed to the boy, and a small housecoat and T-shirt from her grandchild for him to wear.
The woman told the Sun: “The boy was in the police van. He was shivering and had blood on him. But police said it wasn’t his.
“I told the officers I’d last seen the mum on Wednesday [August 19]. They said it tallied up with what they’d heard.
“It’s very sad. I’d heard the baby cry the night before but hadn’t thought anything of it.”
The neighbour said Ms Baguma moved in a couple of months ago and was “nice”.
A GoFundMe page, which has raised more than £46,000 to support her son and pay for funeral expenses, said she had health problems, but her death was “sudden” and “unexpected”.
PAIH said it understands that Ms Baguma lost her job after her limited leave to remain expired and she was no longer allowed to work.
It said that, after living in “extreme poverty”, she claimed asylum and was relying on food from friends and charitable organisations.
The human rights charity said it is the “third tragedy to affect the city’s refugee population in as many months” after a Syrian refugee was found dead in his room at a guest house in May, and, in June, Badreddin Abadlla Adam was shot dead by police after six people were injured in a knife attack at the Park Inn Hotel.
Positive Action in Housing director Robina Qureshi said: “Mercy contacted our charity on August 11 and said she was not getting any financial support, yet had made an application to MigrantHelp.
“Had she lived, she would have been a high priority for a crisis payment from our Emergency Relief Fund like hundreds of others left functionally destitute by the asylum system.
“The question remains: why are mothers and babies being left to go hungry in this city? Why is it being left to charities and volunteers to pick up the pieces?”
She added: “Would this mother be alive if she was not forced out of her job by this cruel system that stops you from working and paying your way because a piece of paper says your leave to remain has expired?
“I’m sure Mercy’s son will want to ask this and other questions once he is old enough.”
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Another charity, African Challenge Scotland, posted a video on Twitter showing Ms Baguma thanking its volunteers for delivering food to her in early June.
PAIH has called for a public inquiry into the deaths and into asylum seeker accommodation in the city.
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The Home Office has launched an investigation into Ms Baguma’s case.
A spokesman 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.”
The Crown Office said the Procurator Fiscal has received a report in connection with the mum’s death and an investigation is under way.
A Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service spokesman said: “The Procurator Fiscal has received a report in connection with the death of a 34-year-old woman in Glasgow on 22 August 2020.
“The investigation into the death, under the direction of Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit, is ongoing and the family will continue to be kept updated in relation to any significant developments.”
SOURCE: THE SUN, UK