Death of Mercy Baguma
I was devastated to hear of the death this week of Mercy Baguma. Mercy was an asylum seeker from Uganda who was living in extreme poverty. She had been stripped of the right to work by the Home Office and, forced into a trap created by Government rules which remove all safety nets, Mercy had no recourse to public funds. She died next to her malnourished baby in her Glasgow flat. This was preventable and I am outraged.
Sadly, Mercy’s story is far from uncommon. I have been approached by many constituents in Mercy’s position who have been unable to work in the wake of the pandemic and who have no recourse to public funds. These include one constituent (a care worker on a zero hour contract in an old people’s home) who, on experiencing coronavirus symptoms, had to choose between endangering the patients in her care or feeding her small children and a pregnant single mother unable to work because of the lockdown, who could not afford to buy food.
In March I, along with a number of my Labour Party colleagues, wrote to the Prime Minister urging the Government to put measures in place to ensure that those in need are able to access public funds during the pandemic. The Government chose to ignore this plea.
As the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF), I will continue to advocate for an overhaul of the inhumane asylum system which led to Mercy dying in such horrific circumstances. My condolences go out to Mercy’s family.
Safe and Lawful Routes to the UK
Last week, a Sudanese refugee, Abdulfatah Hamdallah, tragically drowned trying to cross the English Channel from France. Days later, a migrant was violently attacked moments after arriving on a Kent beach.
The Conservative Government’s persistent characterisation of these journeys as ‘illegal channel crossings’ and the recent threat by the Home Secretary to direct British Navy resources at asylum seekers is both ignorant of the United Kingdom’s responsibilities under International Law and inacceptable on a humanitarian level. Asylum seekers must be treated with compassion, not contempt.
The Government must take substantive measures in order to provide safe, legal routes for asylum seekers to reach the United Kingdom. It is not good enough for the Home Secretary to express her sadness at the news of migrants dying while making this unnecessarily perilous journey, whilst not matching these words with actions that safeguard these individuals. I have repeatedly affirmed my support safe, legal methods and have written directly to the Home Secretary outlining my concerns and requesting information on what the Home Office will be doing to meet the UK’s requirements under International Law.
Ensuring UK Aid reaches girls in crisis
A number of constituents have contacted me this week to raise their concerns that the UK should continue to deliver Aid for the world’s most vulnerable girls, in light of Government’s decision to merge the Department for International Development with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
As irrefutable evidence now shows, lifting girls out of poverty, providing girls with an education and educating communities on the value of girls, is both a social and economic necessity for development. UK Aid plays a critical role helping girls avoid sexual violence and access basic food, education and health services.
I have written to the Foreign Secretary urging the Government to take decisive action to set out an ambitious vision for the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, which puts promoting equality for girls at its very heart.
I’ve received several emails from my constituents who are concerned about how a future vaccine for COVID-19 will be implemented. Many of those constituents are concerned that they will be forced to take a vaccine, or that those people who are unvaccinated will be excluded from key services or banned from travelling abroad.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has obviously presented many challenges for my constituents and it is imperative that efforts are made both in the UK and internationally to defeat the spread of the virus. The Labour Party supports the development, manufacture and distribution of a vaccine for COVID-19 and is supportive of concerted international efforts to fund vaccine research so that the spread of COVID-19 can be defeated.
I share my constituents’ concerns that a vaccine should not be made compulsory and firmly believe in a system of informed consent for vaccinations. I believe that there should be a robust procedure of testing in place to ensure that any future vaccine is safe and fully researched. I also agree that those people who choose not to take a vaccine should not be disadvantaged in any way. I will therefore continue to call on the Government to implement a fair and choice-based system of vaccinations for everyone within the UK.
Schools must be safe for pupils to return next week
Children in Edmonton will be returning to school full time in September.. This week, many constituents have approached me with concerns that their children are being sent back to school before it is safe for them to return. Many are also concerned that if they withhold their children from school because of safety concerns, they may be subject to a fine.
Other countries, such as Denmark, have shown that it is possible to reopen schools safely, putting teacher and pupils’ wellbeing first. Unfortunately, our Government has not followed that example and has, instead, passed the buck to parents and schools by confirming that schools will merely have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas.
I believe that face coverings should be compulsory in communal areas for all schools and that clearer guidance should have been provided by the Government to help drive down transmission, rather than the last-minute U-turn that has been made instead. The priority should be implementing realistic safety measures which can be maintained by all schools.
I strongly believe parents who have concerns regarding the safety of their children should not be fined for seeking alternative provisions. I believe that local authorities and schools should work with parents to ensure that the interests of each individual child are supported and provided for. Whilst it is absolutely a priority that children should return to school as soon as possible, it must be done safely and in a way which caters to their individual needs. I will continue to hold the Government to account on this issue.
Thank you for taking the time to read my latest update, if you have any issues that you would like to raise directly with me then please do email email@example.com. I’m always happy to help whenever possible.
Kate Osamor MP