Heartbreaking photo of drowned father and daughter at US-Mexico border shows migrants' struggles

Reuters/Stringer/Julia Le Duc

A heart-breaking image of a Salvadoran migrant and his two-year-old daughter, face down in the Rio Grande river, has brought the human cost of the US immigration debate into sharper focus.

Oscar Martinez Ramirez, 25, drowned with his child on Sunday afternoon while trying to cross the river from Mexico into the US, as strong currents separated them from her 21-year-old mother, AFP reports.

The image by journalist Julia Le Duc shows the young girl tucked up in Mr Ramirez’s t-shirt, which he hoped would help to protect her in the strong waters.

The tragic incident comes after months of warnings that an increasingly hostile approach to asylum in the US would lead to more deaths at the border.

Migrants have the right to cross borders in order to seek asylum under international law, however those at the US border have been forced to cross in more dangerous places due to a new Trump administration policy making it more difficult to reach legitimate ports of entry to turn themselves over to authorities.

Donald Trump's rhetoric on immigration and asylum has remained increasingly combative since he became US president, recently threatening a trade war with Mexico unless they cracked down on migrants at the latter's southern border, as reports of violent militias in southern states and maltreatment in detention centres dominate the headlines.

Millions of people fleeing persecution and conflict in their homelands of Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have been left with little option but to make the journey north in recent years.

At least 70 million people last year were displaced by war, persecution or conflict around the world last year, according the UNHCR's latest Global Trends report.

While more than two thirds of these come from just five countries - Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia - an estimated 3.4 million people were displaced by the Venezuelan crisis as of February 2019.

People shared their thoughts on the distressing photograph.

The shocking image recalls that of Aylan Kurki, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body was found on a beach in Turkey in 2015.

His photograph sparked an increasingly empathetic debate in Europe about the plight of those displaced by ISIS and the Syrian civil war.

Success stories of asylum-seekers integrating years later in countries like Germany are hitting the news, however thousands of those displaced remain detained or held in camps.

Many continue to drown in crossings across the Mediterranean, as the Italian government crack down on rescue efforts and continue to operate their policy of deporting to often brutal Libyan camps.

More: Trump laughs after supporter suggests migrants crossing Mexico border should be ‘shot’

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