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Vale Jo Cox

20 June 20160 comments

British MP Jo Cox, who has died after being shot and stabbed this week, was a humanitarian campaigner and aid worker for more than a decade.

Reports say she was attacked by a 52-year-old man who shouted “Britain First!” – a slogan identified with the far-right, anti-immigration politics that is common among those who want Britain to break away from the EU in what has been termed the ‘Brexit’.

Jo Cox

Jo Cox

Ms Cox had been campaigning for the ‘Remain’ camp ahead of next week’s referendum in Britain on whether the country should leave the European Union.

Her murder has led to an outpouring of grief from across the British political spectrum as both the pro- and anti-EU camps suspended their campaigns after news of the attack broke.

Ms Cox, 41, was elected to parliament last year after a career as a humanitarian worker. She had championed the plight of Syrian refugees, even as other politicians in Britain and Europe sought to stop hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflict enter Europe.

In April, she spoke in defence of a bill to accept 3,000 child refugees which was voted down by Conservatives in parliament.

“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,” she said in a speech to the UK Parliament.

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,” Ms Cox said.

Last October, Cox co-authored an opinion piece with a conservative politician, calling on Britain to invest more in efforts to provide for refugees and to work toward improving Europe’s “collective response” to the humanitarian crisis spilling out of the Middle East.

“Syria is our generation’s test, our responsibility,” she wrote. Ms Cox had established a parliamentary working group on Syria and organized debates on refugees

She also opposed the anti-immigration politics that has come to define a section of Britain’s right wing. In her maiden speech in the House of Commons, she celebrated how immigration had “deeply enhanced” her constituency near the northern English city of Leeds.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist