THE death of Mercy Baguma is a heart-breaking tragedy that we must take very seriously. Although exact details of Mercy’s death are still to be fully known, it seems clear Mercy and her baby were living in extreme poverty. It has been reported that Mercy was found lying dead next to her malnourished baby. Her son has been described as being “weakened with starvation.”

And while the Black Lives Matter movement continues to resonate around the world, it should be a deep source of shame that those who seek asylum in Scotland in the 21st century go hungry in our communities.

This has happened as a direct result of the immigration system of the United Kingdom, which forced Mercy and her baby into extreme poverty. This is a system which bars migrants without permanent residency from access to public funds. This means there is no access to welfare, school meal subsidies, disability allowance or child support. Instead, asylum seekers can claim a £5.39 per day cash handout if they are facing homelessness, but Mercy told charity workers that she had not yet received any money. And she lost her job after her limited leave to remain expired. She was no longer allowed to work.

READ MORE: Mercy Baguma: Vigil in memory of Glasgow mum cancelled

This is not the only example of how badly the Home Office treats immigrants. It has open policy of creating a ‘hostile environment’ which makes life as unpleasant as possible for people. It led to the Windrush scandal and we have even seen it in the settled-status scheme, which threatens to create another catastrophe for EU citizens.

But when it comes to asylum seekers, it is a matter of life and death. Denied a right to work or claim benefits, this is a system specifically designed to drive people into poverty in the hope they will leave the country. That is utterly unforgivable. We cannot allow mothers and babies to go hungry in 21st century Scotland. Clearly the Home Secretary must answer for this entirely preventable death, but as I said to the First Minister, we cannot simply stand by, this is on all of us. The Scottish Government must act to ensure that this tragedy isn’t repeated.

And sadly, this is not an isolated case. This is the third death of an asylum seeker in Scotland in recent months. People were moved into hotels by a private firm as part of the Home Office’s outsourcing of people’s lives. People seeking asylum were suddenly packed into unsuitable accommodation during a global pandemic of a potentially fatal disease. No wonder the charity Positive Action in Housing has described it as “a humanitarian crisis in Glasgow”.

I support Positive Action in Housing’s call for an inquiry into the housing of asylum seekers during the pandemic, and it is right that the Home Secretary should be held to account for a system that allowed Mercy’s death to happen.

But given the actions and policies of the Home Office over the last decade and the way immigrants are being vilified by the current UK Government, any claim that the wellbeing of people like Mercy is being taken seriously has absolutely no credibility. There is simply no political will to replace the current system with something humane and which respects people’s human rights.

That’s why what we do here in Scotland is incredibly important. We can’t just sit back blaming Westminster while these tragedies continue.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon slams 'inhumane' asylum system after Mercy Baguma's death

Scottish Government and our councils must do what they can to explore ways to support the most vulnerable. Part of that is about embedding people’s human rights into Scots law, and I look forward to seeing how embedding the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child into Scots law can help.

Scottish Greens in parliament will look for any opportunity to add protections for people like Mercy and her baby into Scots law. Meanwhile, Glasgow City Councillor Kim Long is currently leading a campaign for asylum seeker accommodation to be taken out of private hands and managed at the local level by the council with support from the third sector to ensure it meets all the needs of those in the asylum system. We owe it to those who have died.