Labour MP Jo Cox, who died after being attacked on Thursday, made a heartfelt speech in April calling on the government to accept thousands of child refugees.
The lifelong campaigner and mother of two stood up in the House of Commons to passionately back the proposal, which came from the Labour peer Alf Dubs. She urged MPs to help desperate children stranded in Europe who needed safety.
Here is Cox’s speech in full:
We all know that the vast majority of the terrified, friendless and profoundly vulnerable child refugees scattered across Europe tonight came from Syria. We also know that, as that conflict enters its sixth barbaric year, desperate Syrian families are being forced to make an impossible decision: stay and face starvation, rape, persecution and death, or make a perilous journey to find sanctuary elsewhere.
Who can blame desperate parents for wanting to escape the horror that their families are experiencing? Children are being killed on their way to school, children as young as seven are being forcefully recruited to the frontline and one in three children have grown up knowing nothing but fear and war. Those children have been exposed to things no child should ever witness, and I know I would risk life and limb to get my two precious babies out of that hellhole.
I am deeply proud of the government for leading the way internationally on providing humanitarian support to Syrian civilians. Their commitment in terms of finances and policy to help people in the region, and across the middle east and north Africa, will save lives. However, in the chaos caused by the Syrian conflict and many other conflicts, many thousands of already deeply scarred children have become separated from their parents and carers, and they are already in Europe. The government’s generosity to date has not extended to those vulnerable children.
We know that identifying the exact number of unaccompanied minors is difficult, but the latest estimates suggest that there could be up to 95,000 such children in Europe tonight – four times the number we thought. That means that, if we decide tonight to take 3,000 of them, that will be just 3% of the total. That is our continent’s challenge, and we must rise to it.
I recognise that this is not easy, but tonight we are being asked to make a decision that transcends party politics. Any member who has seen the desperation and fear on the faces of children trapped in inhospitable camps across Europe must surely feel compelled to act. I urge them tonight to be brave and bold, and I applaud the honourable and learned member for Sleaford and North Hykeham [Stephen Phillips] for an incredibly principled, personal speech.
In the shanty towns of Calais and Dunkirk, the aid workers I spent a decade with on the frontline as an aid worker myself, tell me that the children there face some of the most horrific circumstances in the world. Surely we have to do the right thing tonight and support the Dubs amendment.
The Syria Solidarity Campaign has paid tribute to Cox saying that she has helped MPs and the public better understand the situation in Syria.
“By reaching out to MPs and peers across parties, she has helped shift the issue of Syria away from partisan stalemate,” a spokesperson said.
“Her strong advocacy of clear policy options focused on civilian protection has provided a humane and intelligent alternative to both the isolationist and the narrow counterterrorist tendencies in the UK’s policy debates on Syria.”
Following the news of her death, thousands of people have shared clips and extracts from the speech, which she delivered in June last year.
“Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir,” she said.
“While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
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