Don’t turn migrants’ dream into nightmare - GulfToday

Don’t turn migrants’ dream into nightmare

Drowned Mexican migrants

The two bodies were found on Monday in Matamoros in Tamaulipas state. AFP

When the image of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy, rattled collective human conscience and made global headlines after he drowned on Sept.2, 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea, it was expected that the approach of governments and people towards refugees and migrants would turn more humane.

Alas, that has not turned out to be the case.

Shocking images of a drowned Salvadoran migrant and his two-year-old daughter who died while trying to cross the Rio Grande river from Mexico to the United States have now emerged raising questions whether humanity as a whole is turning compassion-deficient.

The searing photograph of their bodies, found face down in shallow water with the 23-month-old girl’s arm around her father’s neck, captured by journalist Julia Le Duc and published by Mexican newspaper "La Jornada", also highlights the perils faced by mostly Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty and hoping for asylum in the United States.

Contrary to the portrayal of certain political world leaders, migration is a positive global phenomenon. It powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects diverse societies.

In a touching briefing to the UN Security Council recently, Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, stated that during his three and a half decades as an international civil servant, he had never seen such toxicity, such poisonous language in politics, media and social media, directed towards refugees, migrants and foreigners.

Grandi emphasised that the stigmatisation of refugees and migrants was unprecedented and that traditional responses to refugee crises appeared increasingly inadequate.

It should be acknowledged that Germany, under Chancellor Angela Merkel, has a set a brilliant example of how those seeking refuge need to be treated with dignity and care.  

The US and Mexico are presently implementing tougher policies to stem the flow of undocumented migrants, mostly from Central America, travelling north. At least six have died in recent days.

Most migrants insist they are fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and plan to seek asylum in the US.

However, US President Donald Trump’s hardline stance on immigration is visibly driving migrants to take more dangerous routes.

The image of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, who drowned crossing the Rio Grande, will haunt the conscience of all considerate human beings for years to come.

Ramírez’s tragedy highlights the plight of migrants in similar situations. Frustrated because his family from El Salvador was unable to present themselves to US authorities and request asylum, he reportedly swam across the river on Sunday with his daughter, Valeria.

He set her on the US bank of the river and started back for his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, but seeing him move away the girl threw herself into the waters. Martínez returned and was able to grab Valeria, but the current swept them both away.

With the UN refugee agency indicating that a record 71 million people have now been displaced worldwide by war, persecution and other violence, the world community cannot anymore afford to turn a blind eye to the crucial issue.

Collective and effective global measures to tackle the root causes of displacements are essential.

It should never be forgotten that migrants are humans too. Fair migration laws will benefit all and that’s precisely what the international community should strive for.

The question remains how many more innocent lives need to be lost before the world community wakes up to the endless plight of migrants and refugees!