Baroness Hussein-Ece originally studied art history and fine art, before going to work in local government and training as a librarian.  She subsequently worked for Islington Council's Race Equality Unit, then went to work as a senior manager in the National Health Service, including as chief officer for Haringey Community Health Council.

She was elected as to Hackney Council as a Labour Party councillor for Clissold ward in 1994 and was Deputy Leader in 1995 and 1996.  She was the first woman from a Turkish/Cypriot background elected to public office in the UK.

Following a split in the Hackney Labour group, in 1997 Baroness Hussein-Ece joined the Liberal Democrats; she was re-elected to Hackney Borough Council in Dalston ward in 1998.  She was instrumental in setting up the very first Turkish Women's Group, and establishing a domestic violence project for Turkish and Kurdish women.

In the local government elections of 2002, was elected as Liberal Democrat councillor for Mildmay ward on Islington Council.  She was the Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care from 2002 to 2006, serving as Chair of the Islington Health Partnership Board and as a member of Islington Primary Care Trust Board. She was also a non-executive director of Camden and Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust.  After being re-elected in 2006, Baroness Hussein-Ece was Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee from 2007 to 2009.  In November 2009, Baroness Hussein-Ece was appointed as a Commissioner to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.  In May 2008 Baroness Hussein-Ece was appointed by the Minister for Equalities, Harriet Harman MP to serve on the Government’s Task Force to increase the numbers of ethnic minority women councillors in the UK.

Baroness Hussein-Ece was awarded the OBE in the Queens New Year Honours 2009, for services to local government.  She was Chair of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (2007–10) and was a member of the Liberal Democrats Federal Executive Committee 2005-10, and advised Nick Clegg MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on community cohesion and minority ethnic communities.

It was announced by the UK Cabinet Office on Friday 28 May 2010 that Meral Hussein Ece was to be appointed to the House of Lords.  She was created a life peer on 25 June 2010 taking the title Baroness Hussein-Ece, of Highbury in the London Borough of Islington.  She made her maiden speech at the House of Lords on 15 July 2010 in a debate on criminal justice.  In November 2012, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate (DLitt) by Coventry University, for her work to promote equality for ethnic minorities in the UK, and contribution to peace in Cyprus.