The photograph of an immigrant from El Salvador lying dead on the banks of Rio Grande with his 23-month-old daughter is beyond heart-breaking. In the picture clicked by journalist Julia Le Duc, the father and daughter can be seen lying face down, with the latter’s little hand wrapped around her father’s shoulders, while her head is tucked under his t-shirt. The family was reportedly trying to cross into the US from Mexico, and while the mother managed to survive, she had to watch her husband and her daughter drown right in front of her eyes. How does one process this image as a mother, which evokes one’s worst nightmare? Stripping all the politics and rationality out of the picture, this image plainly tells us how children remain the biggest and the most brutal of all causalities of the on-going immigration crisis across the world.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The pictures of a father daughter duo that drowned while trying to cross into the US from Mexico have led to outrage.
  • They come four years after similar images of Alan Kurdi made rounds on social media.
  • Has much changed since then?
  • While we debate the politics of immigration isn’t it our humanitarian duty to take the well-being of immigrant children into account?

Stripping all the politics and rationality out of the picture, this image plainly tells us how children remain the biggest and the most brutal of all causalities of the ongoing immigration crisis across the world.

Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramirez, Tania Vanessa Ávalos and their daughter Valeria had arrived last weekend in the border city of Matamoros, Mexico, hoping to apply for asylum in the United States, reports The New York Times. But officials told them that the international bridge was closed until Monday. So they set off to cross the river to get into the US instead, the father carrying his daughter on his back, under his shirt. But the current was too strong for them and while the mother managed to swim back to the Mexican bank of the river, Oscar and his daughter succumbed.

Not long ago, we witnessed another such image, which shook me to my core that of a little Syrian boy’s body lying face down on a Turkish beach. His red t-shirt and blue shorts, his boots, and the stillness of his lifeless body. It raised a furore back then, but then it has been almost four years since Alan Kurdi passed away, and as this new photograph tells us, nothing much has changed. In March it was widely reported that six migrant children have died in US custody. Some days back, the report that immigrant children being kept at the US detainment centres weren’t even being provided with soap, toothbrushes and had to cover themselves with blankets made of aluminium foil, lead to a major outrage on Twitter.

Are these children not the responsibility of this world? Can we not make this world a better place to live in, so that no parent would have to risk their child’s life all in a bid for a better future?

These little children didn’t make the decision to leap into water out of desperation and yet, their pictures scream just that. Just what would make a father and a mother so desperate that they would jump into a river with their child in hope of a better future? What are the conditions such families come from? While we outrage and criticise apathy of countries dealing with the immigration crisis, let us also ask, who is accountable for safety and well-being of these kids. Is it the countries which deny them and their parents an entry? Is it the parents who jeopardise their lives in hopes of a better future? Is it their own countries which the parents find so inhospitable, they must leave at all costs? Or is it all of them and all of us?

Us, who pay attention to children like Alan and Valeria only when it is too late. Who look at a photograph and feel a lump rise in our throats and panic flutter in our hearts, and then put the newspaper down and set about minding our own business. Until the cycle repeats itself, again. And again. And again.

Image Credit: Julia Le Duc/Associated Press

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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