Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

British MP's legacy in the spotlight with Syria messages

British landmarks were covered with messages pleading with Russia to stop bombing the Syrian city of Idlib as the UK committed to taking in more child refugees

The charity projected messages onto London’s St Thomas’ hospital. Courtesy 'Friends of Jo Cox
The charity projected messages onto London’s St Thomas’ hospital. Courtesy 'Friends of Jo Cox

Britain plans to take in 5,000 refugees in 2020 in a new settlement scheme that provides a route to residency for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The Home Office said it would also put in place a new process for identifying and relocating vulnerable refugees that would allow “the UK to respond quickly to instances when there is a heightened need for protection, providing a faster route to resettlement where lives are at risk”.

On the first day of Refugee Week, a global awareness week for those forced to leave their homes, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said it was “vital” the UK did as much as possible for those fleeing danger.

“Under our new scheme, thousands more people fleeing conflict and persecution will have the opportunity to build a new life in the UK,” Mr Javid said.

The current scheme has housed refugees across the country, from the northern reaches of Scotland to the wilds of Cornwall.

“We are delighted by this announcement from the UK, which is extending its commitment to offer international protection to a meaningful number of refugees from wherever the need is most acute,” said Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UK representative for the UN's refugee agency.

“We hope this serves as a signal for other countries to provide more routes to safety for those forced to flee as the international community moves to make the global compact on refugees a reality.”

The announcement came just hours after London landmarks were covered with messages pleading with Russia to stop bombing the Syrian city of Idlib.

St Thomas’ Hospital on London’s Southbank was lit up with a graphic of a target, accompanied by text reading “Putin: This is not a target” on the third anniversary of the death of the murdered parliamentarian, Jo Cox.

Another projection read: “29 hospitals have been bombed in Syria in the last 6 weeks”.

Passers-by were encouraged to share the images and messages of hope using the hashtag #SaveIdlib.

At least 352 civilians have been killed in north-west Syria, including 75 children, in the past six weeks, says the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations.

One million children are thought to be stuck in the city of Idlib, humanitarian charity Mercy Corps estimates, and more than half of the city’s population have fled to the city from other areas including Aleppo, Homs and Ghouta.

Ms Cox, 41, was shot and stabbed to death by white supremacist Thomas Mair, 53, who shouted “this is for Britain”, “keep Britain independent”, and “Britain first” as he committed the act.

Since her death, her husband Brendan and family have worked to raise awareness of her goals of kinder politics in the UK and the plight of Syrian people caught up in a complex and brutal civil war.

Ms Cox, who worked in the humanitarian sector before becoming the MP for Batley and Spen, implored the government to take in more child refugees during her tenure as MP.

A quote from her maiden speech to the chamber has become a rallying cry for those seeking peace both at home and abroad: "We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us."

This quote was projected on to the Houses of Parliament over the weekend with a picture of the late MP.

Ms Cox had a special interest in the plight of the Syrian people. She co-chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group Friends of Syria to promote UK policies aimed at protecting civilians there.

“Jo cared passionately about the terrible conditions being endured by children and civilians caught up in the conflict in Syria,” said Ms Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater.

"I remember her saying that if her kids had been in such danger she would have done literally anything to get them out of there.

“Today children are still being bombed indiscriminately in Idlib. If Jo were with us now she would be demanding action and refusing to accept that nothing can be done.”

On Friday, the friends of Ms Cox also issued a call to Conservative leadership candidates asking them to state what action they would take to protect the people of Idlib.

“Three years ago, when Aleppo was under an unrelenting campaign of air strikes, Jo wrote that it is not ethical to wish away the barrel bombs from the Syrian government when you have the capacity to stop them," read the letter signed by Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, and others.

"Millions in Idlib are again facing the horror of daily barrel bombs,” the letter.

“Today we ask you the simple question Jo would be asking: If you become [rime minister, what will you do to save the million children trapped under bombs in Idlib?”

Updated: June 18, 2019 10:21 AM

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