Vigil held for Kenyan refugee who died while waiting for bed at Mississauga shelter

Mourners gathered Saturday to honour the life of Delphina Wambui Ngigi, the Kenyan asylum seeker who died after waiting hours for space at a Mississauga shelter. Michelle Mackey reports on the growing calls for action.

A Kenyan migrant and widowed mother of four who died in a Mississauga shelter was mourned and remembered at a candlelight vigil in North York.

Delphina Ngigi arrived in Canada on Feb. 15, seeking a better life for her four children back home following the death of their father last December. She ended up at the shelter at 1767 Dundas Street East two days later looking for a place to stay but was not admitted until 8 p.m. that night after spending seven hours in -6 to -8 temperatures.

On Feb. 18 she suffered a medical emergency inside the shelter and was taken to a hospital where she later died. While the cause of death has yet to be released, hospital officials have said her death does not appear to be suspicious.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said afterward there were no beds for the woman at the shelter and she was forced to sleep in the lobby.

Those who gathered at Dominion International Church on Saturday to remember the 46-year-old say more needs to be done to prevent this from happening again.

“In the context of her waiting outside in the cold for seven hours she eventually died. That is unfortunately part of the true facts surrounding her death,” said pastor Eddie Jjumba. “Could it have been prevented? I know what could’ve been prevented. She didn’t have to wait in the cold for seven hours.”

It was the second death of an asylum seeker in Peel Region after a Nigerian refugee died last November while sleeping in a tent outside the same shelter. There are fears this will happen again and again with more people coming into the country and governments finger-pointing.

“Why would you let somebody move and come to the airport and you have no place for them to stay and allow them to come in? Why are your embassies still giving visas?” asked Dr. Kofi Danso with the Christian worship centre Miracle Arena for All Nations.

Last month, the federal government pledged $362 million to provinces and cities to help support the influx of asylum seekers with nearly 40 per cent of that earmarked for Toronto.

Pastor Jjumba says he would like to see the federal government make good on its $7 million pledge to finish building the reception centre for refugees at Pearson Airport finished.

“Five months ago we were told it was going to be ready in a short time. Up to this day, we don’t have an exact substantial update on when. Two days ago we got an update that it might start in May, but for me, until it has started, I couldn’t even tell you that we have a date.”

In the meantime mourners want Canada to honour Ngigi’s life by providing asylum to her four children.

“Canada owes these four children a life,” said one of the congregants at the vigil.

A GoFundMe campaign has been created to help with getting Ngigi’s body back to Kenya and her family.

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