Tributes have been paid to an interpreter who worked to reunite children stranded in refugee camps around the world with relatives in the UK, following her death from Covid-19.
Mother-of-five Mona Mahmoud, 43, below, was of Eritrean descent, born in Spain and brought up in Canada and spoke a “dizzying” number of languages including Arabic, French and Tigrinya.
She worked for community charity Citizens UK, based in Whitechapel, as an interpreter for the Safe Passage project which helps unaccompanied child refugees and had worked in Lebanon and the Calais “jungle”.
She left last year to complete a masters at the University of East London and died in Homerton University Hospital on April 11. In a statement, Safe Passage said Mrs Mahmoud was central to its work following the demolition of the Calais camp in 2016.
It said: “Mona’s warmth and compassion quickly won the trust of unaccompanied children from the camp, creating the security and space for them to put their faith in a legal solution.
“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.”
She had also worked with Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, where a spokesman said: “She was not only an interpreter but a confidant, 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 health conditions but fell ill in mid-March.
She was taken to hospital from her Hackney home on March 29 as she was struggling to breathe and died two weeks later with her husband Mohammed Nadeem at her side.
Mr Nadeem said: “Mona dedicated her life to others. She was kind and compassionate 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.”