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Bell Ribeiro-Addy

Streatham MP says inquiry into Belly Mujinga death vital to protect workers

Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said an independent public inquiry into the death of transport worker Belly Mujinga is vital to protect other frontline workers.

Belly, a sales clerk at Victoria station, died from coronavirus in April, weeks after being reportedly coughed and spat on by a passenger claiming to have the virus.

More than two million signatures have been added to a petition started in May by her husband’s lawyer called for justice for Belly’s death.

Ribeiro-Addy last week wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, signed by 50 other MPs and peers calling for a public inquiry into Belly’s death.

The Labour MP highlighted the importance of an inquiry to address the issues of other frontline workers, and particularly those in BAME communities, which have been hit disproportionately by the coronavirus.

Ribeiro-Addy said: “It all comes down to accountability and we need to get to the bottom of it to protect other Bellys. Somebody had a duty of care and that wasn’t necessarily met and we need a complete enquiry to tell us who needs to be held responsible.

“The statistics show that investigations don’t tend to happen when it comes to BAME workers and I don’t think that it’s acceptable. When it comes to black people in this country, there’s often a rush to close down an investigation.

“More and more incidents are happening to black people and we are less and less likely to see ongoing investigations. Justice is never served.

“Belly is gone and it’s tragic but the reason that we have inquiries is to make sure that things like this don’t happen again. You cannot say that the correct procedures are in place to protect people like her and if they aren’t, then we need to find out why they aren’t.”

Belly had an underlying health condition which affected her lungs and made it harder for her to breathe, but was on the station’s concourse with no PPE at the time of the incident on 21 March.

She was admitted to hospital on 2 April, and died three days later.

Details around the investigation into the alleged spitting incident are conflicted, with Belly’s colleague Motolani Sunmola claiming they reported the incident to their employer Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which the company denies.

GTR released the findings of its own internal investigation into the incident, which can be found here.

Ribeiro-Addy added: “There’s a lot of debate around the exact incident, but actually every day she was out on that concourse without PPE being passed by people.”

GTR told the BBC: “The medical condition which Belly Mujinga suffered from was not on the government’s shielding list at the time of the incident.

“Had it been, the company would have told her to shield, as we did with nearly 400 other colleagues. The following week, after the incident, her doctors said she should in fact shield.

“At that point she was told not to come into work, and to self-isolate.”

Ribeiro-Addy said too many details around the case need clarifying, as highlighted by Lawrence Davies, the lawyer for Belly’s husband, which is why she has called for an inquiry.

She added: “The evidence is clear that BAME communities are hit harder by the coronavirus because those people are more likely to live in poorer areas. We know what the issues are, and we know that it’s about structural racism rather than genetic reasons.

“These are people more likely to be in lower paid work, with unsecure employment and no recourse to public money. The Government needs to address these issues.”

The Government is yet to respond to Ribeiro-Addy’s letter, and she said that she’s not expecting a response but she added that she hopes raising public awareness of the Belly Mujinga case will make a difference.

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