Thursday 17 October 2019

Chilling photo of migrant dad and daughter sparks outrage

Anguish: Tania Avalos, wife of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, at the morgue in Matamoros, Mexico. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
Anguish: Tania Avalos, wife of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, at the morgue in Matamoros, Mexico. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Zamira Rahim

A 23-month-old girl lies face down in the waters of the Rio Grande, tucked into her father's black t-shirt. Her arm is draped around his neck, suggesting she died clutching his body.

The poignant image of the bodies of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter Valeria has prompted outrage across Mexico and the US, further highlighting the plight faced by Central American migrants hoping to claim asylum in America.

The photograph was taken by Julia Le Duc, a Mexican journalist.

The Irish Independent like other newspapers around the world has taken the decision to publish the image which captures the desperation of immigrants and the tragedy unfolding among those desperately attempting to enter the US.

The photograph has been compared with the 2015 image of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean which was also published in the Irish Independent.

It is understood Mr Ramirez crossed the river which separates the neighbouring countries on Sunday, carrying his child, according to 'La Jornada', a Mexican newspaper.

The bodies of a Salvadorian migrant and his daughter are seen at the Rio Bravo river in Matamoros, in Tamaulipas state in Mexico
Picture: REUTERS
The bodies of a Salvadorian migrant and his daughter are seen at the Rio Bravo river in Matamoros, in Tamaulipas state in Mexico Picture: REUTERS

The 26-year-old placed the girl on the US bank of the river and started to return to the other side, to fetch his wife, when his daughter jumped after him.

Mr Ramirez caught hold of Valeria, but both were swept away by the current. The pair were found dead shortly afterwards.

Amid tears and screams, Tania Vanessa Avalos, Mr Ramirez's wife, reportedly described the drowning to police officers at the scene.

The family fled their home in El Salvador on April 3 and lived for around two months in a shelter in Tapachula, near Mexico's border with Guatemala.

Mr Ramirez decided to swim across the river after reportedly growing frustrated over the family's inability to present themselves to US border authorities and formally request asylum.

A Mexican state official said the family visited the US consulate in the city of Matamoros early on Sunday.

Asylum claims in the US can take months and years to process. It is unclear what occurred at the consulate but the family decided to cross the river later that day.

"When the girl jumped in is when he tried to reach her, but when he tried to grab the girl, he went in further... and he couldn't get out," Rosa Ramirez, the dead man's mother, said at her home in El Salvador.

"He put her in his shirt, and I imagine he told himself, 'I've come this far' and decided to go with her."

Ms Ramirez is in El Salvador and spoke to her daughter-in-law on the phone after the drownings.

"I begged them not to go, but he wanted to scrape together money to build a home," she said. They hoped to be there a few years and save up for the house."

Mexican newspapers have compared the image of the father and daughter to the 2015 photograph of Alan Kurdi.

"Very regrettable that this would happen," Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the Mexican president, said.

"We have always denounced that as there is more rejection in the United States, there are people who lose their lives in the desert or crossing [the river]."

Mexico has attempted to work with the Trump administration on the migrant crisis, which has been fuelled by people fleeing unrest and violence in Central America.

The Trump administration's immigration policy has dramatically reduced the number of migrants who are allowed to request asylum, down from dozens per day previously to sometimes just a handful at some ports of entry.

"With greater crackdowns and restrictions we could see more desperate measures by people trying to enter Mexico or the US," said Cris Ramon, senior immigration policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Centre think-tank in Washington.

Mr Trump himself has frequently used demonising language when talking of immigrants, employing terms such as "animals", "stone-cold criminals" and "bad hombres" who he has described as "infesting our country". (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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