Community members gathered Saturday to mourn the death of Kenyan asylum seeker Delphina Ngigi on Saturday, who died just three days after she landed in Canada.

The vigil was held at Dominion Church in North York. Faith Wairimu, Ngigi’s sister, said she is currently In Florida and unable to attend the vigil because of visa restrictions. But knowing that people in Canada mourned her sister without really knowing her showed her family “the beautiful side of humanity.”

“For us to receive this love, I think it’s a testament that we should always do good wherever we are because you never know when you will need a helping hand,” Wairimu said.  

“We are so grateful.” 

According to the Rwandan Canadian Healing Centre, Ngigi arrived at the Mississauga shelter at 1767 Dundas Street E. at about 1 p.m. on Feb. 17 and was forced to wait outside in the cold for hours, before she was let into the lobby at about 8 p.m. 

Ngigi spent the night there and collapsed when she was taking a shower in the shelter the next day. She was taken to hospital shortly afterwards, was still awake and conscious at 2 p.m., but died there just after 4:30 p.m. Her cause of death has not yet been released.

WATCH | Asylum seeker dies after waiting hours outside of Mississauga shelter:

Asylum seeker dies after waiting for shelter space near Toronto

Just three days after arriving in Canada to claim asylum, a Kenyan woman died while waiting for a bed at a Mississauga, Ont., shelter. Advocates say Delphina Ngigi’s death highlights the urgent need for Ottawa to provide more support for asylum seekers.

Ngigi remembered as ‘full of life’

Wairimu remembered Ngigi in “high spirits” upon making it to Canada, after trying to board several flights to the country unsuccessfully. She recalls praying with her in thanks for her arrival, calling her “grateful” and “full of life.” 

That’s why she was devastated to hear of her sudden death. 

“I’m just shell shocked. I can’t believe it,” she said upon learning the news.

Ngigi, 46, was a mother to four children, all of whom are still in Kenya. Wairimu said her death feels like “scraping an existing wound” since their father died just months ago following a battle with cancer.

People stand in dark room holding candles.
A vigil was held at Dominion Church in North York as community members mourn the death of Kenyan asylum seeker Delphina Ngigi, who died just three days after she landed in Canada. (Ivan Arsovski/CBC)

It was made even harder by the pressure to tell her family of Ngigi’s’ death, as the news was already making the rounds on social media.

“It’s been very interesting that we have had to console people that we don’t know who are traumatized by her death,” she said.

The family hopes to raise $40,000 to bring her back home and lay her to rest in Kenya. But her dream of starting a new life in Canada may one day still happen if her children want to see it through, said Wairimu.

“There is that conversation beyond her. Her dream lives on through her children,” she said.

Death renews calls for more help

Ngigi is the second asylum seeker to have died in a roughly three-month span. In November, another asylum seeker, a Nigerian man, died outside of the same shelter. 

Her death renewed calls to the federal government for more funding to help settle and support asylum seekers, particularly those who are seeking refuge in Peel Region. As of last month, the region was providing shelter for about 1,200 asylum seekers. 

Pastor Eddie Jjumba.
Pastor Eddie Jjumba, a senior pastor at Milliken Wesleyan Methodist Church in Markham, said Ngigi’s death was felt far and wide. (Ivan Arsovski/CBC)

Pastor Eddie Jjumba, a senior pastor at Milliken Wesleyan Methodist Church in Markham, said Ngigi’s death was felt far and wide, adding that thousands of people tuned in from Kenya and across the globe tuned in online in support of Ngigi.

“The community is grieved. The community has a lot of questions,” Jjumba said.

“We’re here to do whatever we can to at least support the costs it will take to have the body transported to Kenya.”

Since last year, the church has provided shelter to hundreds of asylum seekers. Jjumba said more needs to be done to prevent such deaths in the future.

“This is the second death on our hands in similar circumstances … I think that’s why it has really struck a chord.”

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