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Dying for a better life

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The bodies of Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria lie on the bank of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, after they drowned trying to cross the river to Brownsville, Texas. This photograph was first published in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.

Aphotograph which was one morning splashed across the globe was indeed shocking. It was an image of a father with his 23 month old darling daughter. Both lay face down in shallow water along the bank of the river Rio Grande, at U.S.-Mexico border. His black shirt hiked up to his chest with the girl tucked inside. Her arm was draped around his neck. The family wanted safety, and opportunity, save enough to be able to buy a house back home. No intention to settle down permanently in USA. The photograph was a reminiscent of a 2015 photograph showing a three year old Syrian boy who lay drowned on a calm Mediterranean shore.

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Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter, Valeria, in a family photo.

According to news reports Alberto Martínez Ramírez (25) with his wife Tania Vanessa Ávalos (21) and daughter Valeria had planned to ask for asylum in the United States. The father, a young and dynamic man, sold his motorcycle and borrowed money to move his wife, and daughter from El Salvador to the United States. The family reached an international bridge in Matamoros, Mexico and went to the U.S. Consulate, but they lost all hopes considering the legal procedures. The young family was desperate and standing so close on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, America looked within reach. So they made the decision to cross the river. Alberto swam across the river with his daughter. He set her on the U.S. bank of the river and started back for his wife. But seeing him move away the girl threw herself into the water. Alberto returned and was able to grab Valeria, but the current swept them both away.

It is a spine-chilling image to see the girl’s arm on her father which reflects that until her last breath, she was joined to him by the shirt. In the flowing water it would have been very painful for the child to cling to her father. In that embrace they passed together into death. This image is a symbol of the large-scale humanitarian crisis.

Desperate for a better life there are scores of people who want to enter USA. However, President Donald Trump has made curbing illegal immigration a policy priority since his election. His zero tolerance policy is not only tough but against humanity. Let’s not go into details but by prosecuting adults who crossed the border illegally, it had the effect of separating children from their parents. The U.S. has also introduced a ‘metering’ policy under which asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their claims are processed in U.S. courts, a wait that could last many months or even years. However there is no guarantee that they will be allowed. As a result there are many humanitarian tragedies.

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Three year old Syrian boy who lay drowned on a calm Mediterranean shore.

The US policy makes it impossible for refugees to come through the legal ports of entry. The 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border has long been in focus; last year 283 migrant deaths were recorded here. Rio Grande is the river that immigrants try to cross which is swollen most of the year with water released from dams for irrigation.

Every year millions of people are being forced to leave their homes. In the list is not only a Syria kind of conflict but top most is poverty and hunger. These are creations of the politicians. Besides there are people fleeing their land to escape from climate change-induced droughts, disaster, and inadequate conditions in their homeland. The reasons could be different but they share the pain of similar intensity.

According to a report released by the United Nations since the Second World War more than 70 million people around the world are now officially displaced from their homes by conflict, violence, and persecution. This figure does not include the vast majority of people who are displaced within their country of origin. How can we forget our own Kashmiri Pandits in India?

The migrants usually try to enter the neighboring countries. As it is not easy to enter with valid papers they chose the river or sea route. Another UN report says that in 2017, more than 170,000 migrants, including refugees, arrived in Europe by sea and close to 120,000 of them crossed the Central Mediterranean, most of them traveled on smugglers’ boats. This migrant route has recorded most deaths. Many go missing or get killed by security forces.

America is a nation of immigrants. With such images and its arm-twisting exercises across the world the country has lost its moral authority it had earned with its generosity since several decades. Many of the US citizen’s forefathers had moved to the place leaving their own country in search of a bright future. With such image ultimately US stands today naked, and in shame. US has so much to share but in its greed and selfishness it has been continuously raining war and while siding with one faction of two warring groups, it has in the process jeopardized the life of innocent people across the world. Whether it is Iran – Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, you name it and they have a hand in it.

No matter who you are and which country you belong to but we all agree that Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria should have had a chance for a better and happier life. On this planet we all have our own share. Dividing it in such manner is a cruel joke with humanity.

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A bilingual poet, author, columnist, editor, and painter, an Aviation Engineer by education but a journalist by profession. He has worked with Indian Express group; edited Courage and The Voice magazines; Edited and Published The Scoria (the leading English literary magazine 1995-2002) which has the credit of introducing more than 100 new poets, including many American & British poets. The magazine was patronized by Khushwant Singh, former Prime Ministers VP Singh and PV Narasimha Rao among others; Andrew Motion (who was later Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009), Paul Hoover, Maxine Chernoff, Edith Konecky, Jonathan Gourlay, Patricia Prime, Arlene Zide and some other very well-known poets and authors. Author of several books in English and Hindi. He was Editor of India’s best known and highest selling investment magazine Dalal Street Investment Journal before starting his own venture Indian Economy & Market.Author can be reached at editor@indianeconomyandmarket.com