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Church of Scotland moderator calls for action after poverty-stricken asylum seeker found dead next to starving child

by Premier Journalist

Police are investigating the death of an asylum seeker who was found dead next to her one-year-old son in a flat in Glasgow. Mercy Baguma, originally from Uganda, was found on 22nd August after locals heard the sound of her son crying. Authorities say the death is not being treated as suspicious but remains unexplained. 

Refugee charity Positive Action in Housing said Baguma had been living in "extreme poverty" after her right to work in the UK expired. Her son, who was said to be "weakened from several days of starvation", has since been released from hospital and is staying with his father. 

Baguma had contacted the charity a number of weeks ago saying that she did not have the money to look after herself or her child. In June, another charity called 'African Challenge Scotland' posted a video to social media of Bagume thanking volunteers for delivering food to her door. 

A Home Office spokesperson called the situation "tragic" and insisted that it "takes the wellbeing of all those in the asylum system extremely seriously." The department also noted that it would be "conducting a full investigation into Ms Baguma's case."

Speaking to Premier, Rev Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland lamented the death of Ms Baguma and said that more must be done to meet the needs of those who are struggling and vulnerable. 

"Glasgow is a welcoming, friendly city. And so for this to happen in our backyard, I think cast a real sense of deep sadness across the city," he explained. "And I think beyond that a degree of shame that in the 21st century, this is the kind of thing that happens. It's an indictment in many ways on where we are as a country, and it can't go on, simple as that." 

Rev Fair said the "system is absolutely incomplete" when it comes to caring for asylum seekers. "If someone is slipping through the net in this kind of way, that has become absolutely destitute and in extreme poverty, then something is going wrong," he said. "Of course, this is not a unique case, and the coronavirus pandemic has only added to the problems for asylum seekers, and we're not doing enough." 

Rev Fair insisted that Christians should be guided by the Bible's command to "love the foreigner" and be at the forefront of the response to meeting the needs of vulnerable members of their communities. 

He said: "You can go through much of the Old Testament and you will find verse after verse which encourages as we're told, for example, that God loves the foreigner in the land and provides for them food and clothing, and so you should do the same.

"There are parts of Scripture which are difficult to interpret and then there are bits which are clear as day, and this is one of them...about how we treat those who come, in need, into our societies. So for Christians, absolutely the imperative is upon us. But for me, I don't want to make that distinction too clearly - this imperative as for all of us, all of society."

Rev Fair also called Christians to pray for the child in this case, who has been left motherless as a result of the tragedy. He also encouraged people to pray for solutions on the proviso that they are willing to get involved with the solution. 

"Don't pray something that you're not prepared to get involved in the answer for," he said. "If we're going to pray, let's be ready also to act. Both are required." 

Listen to Premier's full interview with Rev Martin Fair here: 


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