Boris Johnson has agreed to intervene in the case of Mercy Baguma, who was found dead in a flat in Glasgow two weeks ago next to her distressed one-year-old son.
Johnson was pressed by the Scottish National party MP David Linden at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday to arrange an urgent meeting with the home secretary to resolve the asylum application that has been pending for the child’s father, who is now the boy’s sole carer.
David Linden, MP for Glasgow East, said: “The tragic case of Mercy Baguma has shone a light on the UK’s callous asylum policies that have pushed countless people into further hardship.
“This boy has been through more than any one-year-old should ever have to, yet his future hangs in limbo while the Home Office prolongs his father’s asylum application.”
Linden said he was grateful to the prime minister for agreeing to intervene on his constituent’s behalf. “Rather than dragging on their worries, the Home Office must resolve the case and ensure that the boy and his dad can get on with rebuilding their lives in Scotland without uncertainty.”
Earlier this week, Eric Nnanna spoke to the Glasgow Times about his relationship with the “charming and lovely” Baguma, whom he met in 2017. Nnanna is originally from Nigeria, while Baguma was born in Uganda, and both first came to Scotland as students.
Nnanna revealed that Baguma’s ambition was to join Police Scotland and that the couple, along with their toddler son, had attended an open day at the Scottish Police college at Tulliallan Castle in January.
While it is still unclear what caused her death, Nnanna also made clear that the 34-year-old did not die of starvation and that their son, while hungry when he was found, is otherwise a healthy little boy.
The prime minister’s intervention comes as officials at Glasgow city council have written to the UK immigration minister Chris Philp stating that dispersal to the city should not resume until the private housing provider Mears has moved all the asylum seekers who are in hotels into suitable accommodation.
Hundreds of asylum seekers were moved into hotels at the start of lockdown, and there followed continuous reports of poor quality food, stressful living conditions and spiralling mental ill-health. On 26 June, Badreddin Abadlla Adam, a Sudanese asylum seeker, was shot dead after stabbing six people including a police officer at the Park Inn hotel.
Glasgow city council’s leader, Susan Aitken, and the authority’s equalities convener, Jen Layden, also told the Home Office they were prepared to offer a pilot for asylum seekers to be able to work in the city. In the weeks before her death, Mercy Baguma is known to have expressed frustration that she was unable to work to support herself.
Layden said: “We do not support the longer-term use of hotel or student accommodation for asylum seekers in the city, we need to see better mental health and wellbeing support. We require assurance that people are being signposted to the appropriate advocacy support and we want to see the Home Office meet with dispersal areas across the country so we can discuss the systemic issues at play here.”
A Mears spokesperson said the company would “do all in its power to end the use of hotels”, but added: “We currently do not have sufficient accommodation to move all of the people accommodated in hotels out. We have prioritised moves for those who have been in hotels for the longest time.” They confirmed that the number of hotels in use had reduced from six to three.