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Interpreter who helped refugee children dies of Covid-19

PUBLISHED: 08:00 22 May 2020

Mona Mahmoud worked with Citizens UK in Whitechapel. Picture: Mohammed Nadeem

Mona Mahmoud worked with Citizens UK in Whitechapel. Picture: Mohammed Nadeem

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Tributes have been paid to a “fiercely loving” interpreter who worked to reunite children stranded in refugee camps with relatives in the UK, following her death with Covid-19.

Mona Mahmoud spoke a 'dizzying' number of languages and helped reunite refugee children with relatives in the UK. Picture: Mohammed NadeemMona Mahmoud spoke a 'dizzying' number of languages and helped reunite refugee children with relatives in the UK. Picture: Mohammed Nadeem

Mother-of-five, Mona Mahmoud, who was of Eritrean decent and brought up in Canada, lived in Hackney. She spoke a number of languages and worked for community organisation charity Citizens UK, in Whitechapel, as an interpreter for the Safe Passage project, which helps unaccompanied child refugees around the world.

The 43-year-old had worked in refugee camps in Lebanon and the Calais “Jungle”.

Mrs Mahmoud left the organisation last year to complete a masters at the University of East London and died in Homerton University Hospital on April 11.

Her family said she had no underlying health conditions.

In a statement, Safe Passage said Mrs Mahmoud was central to its work to reunite children with the families following the demolition of the Calais “Jungle” in 2016.

It said: “Mona’s warmth and compassion quickly won the trust and confidence of unaccompanied children from the camp creating the security and space for them to put their faith in a legal solution.

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“It was this unshakeable sense of justice that drove Mona to help so many to navigate the complexities of our asylum system, access safe routes and strive for a better world.

“The impact of her work will live on in the love and stories of the families she helped to reunite and reach a place of safety. We are united in grief at her loss.”

She had also worked with Bhatt Murphy Solicitors to help secure safe passage to the UK for refugee children stranded in Europe. A spokesman for the firm said she spoke “a dizzying array of languages”, including Tigrigna, Arabic and French.

He added: “She was not only an interpreter but a confidante, aunt, sister and surrogate mother.

“We cannot really yet believe that our powerful, fiercely loving friend who always supported others through tragedy and injustice, has been stricken down by this new tragedy, this new injustice.”

Her family said she had no underlying health conditions but began to feel ill in mid-March. She was taken to hospital on March 29 when she began struggling to breathe and died two weeks later with her husband Mohammed Nadeem by her side.

Mr Nadeem, 46, said: “Mona dedicated her life to others. She was kind and compassionate, someone who was always campaigning for others and a caring mother to our children. She had lived a good life and wanted others to have the opportunity to do the same.”

Bekele Woyecha, senior project manager at Citizens UK, said: “She was a fierce, strong, politically minded woman and a caring mother. It is devastating news.”


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