Death and Tragedy Among Glasgow’s Refugees

On Saturday the 22nd of August Mercy Baguma was found dead next to her infant son in a Govan flat. The baby was malnourished, half-starved, and his mother had died of starvation after losing her job.

Forced out of work and into “extreme poverty”, states the charity Positive Action in Housing, Mercy Baguma was another victim of Home Office policy.

Responding to a question about Ms Baguma’s death, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon expressed her sympathies and blamed the “inhumane” UK Asylum system.

With her Asylum application rejected and her right to work revoked, Ms Baguma was reliant on food from charities like African Challenge Scotland. Positive Action in Housing had also been in contact with Mercy, who – weeks before her death – warned them she did not have enough money to look after herself and her son.

Mercy Baguma

Poverty is a shared experience of refugees and Asylum seekers in Glasgow, where many cannot work and are forced to live a life of precarity by the Home Office. Glasgow has resettled over 10,000 refugees and Asylum seekers from over 70 nationalities, just in the last three years.

Last year, there were protests and legal battles against the Mears Housing Association, and their cruel policy of lock-change evictions for refused Asylum seekers. The Government and Landlords relented slightly, conceding that such evictions now require a Court order to be enforced.

Living their lives at the pleasure of government bureaucracy, many refugees were transferred like prisoners from their flats around Glasgow into hotels as part of COVID-19 lockdown measures. The Scottish Refugee Council criticised this policy, the cramped conditions, and the lack of consideration given to the needs and safety of the people being housed together.

On the 26th of June, three Asylum seekers, two hotel workers and a Police Constable were stabbed at the Park Inn on West George Street. Witnesses speculated that the attacker, an Asylum seeker from Sudan, had been driven to “breaking point” by the conditions at the hotel. Badreddin Abdalla Adam had been isolated in his hotel room for three weeks and complained he could not sleep because of noise from other rooms.

The Home Office was criticised by MPs and charities for its hotel policy in the aftermath of the stabbing, in which Adam was shot dead by armed Police. Defending her brief, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the policy was “in line with Law”.

People are right to question if Mercy Baguma’s life could have been saved, and see in the Home Office her murderer. She is a victim of the capitalist system.

There has always been a ‘hostile environment’ for refugees and migrants, and there always will be so long as the capitalist class reign. With their divide-and-rule tactics, the ruling class pits worker against worker, on the basis of origin and race.

Socialism must overthrow this cruel system, by uniting the working class of all countries in common struggle.

Shaun Morris, Glasgow Marxists