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migrants drown

Picture credit Julia Le Duc and La Jornala

The above is a truly heartrending photo that is dutifully doing the rounds of western papers wringing the souls of any who read the story. It is truly tragic, harrowing even, rightly shocking the world – but it is not the picture of an Asylum Seeker.

Sadly this poor child’s death was not unavoidable, his life was not at risk.

Nor sadly was the child’s life at risk in El Salvator where her father Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his wife and daughter lived.


This is not a case of a family travelling to seek Asylum.  The granny, Rosa Ramirez back home in El Salvador, has been reported to say that they left not to flee violence or crime but “to scrape together money to build a house”.  They were economic migrants not fleeing persecution but seeking a better life.  Now seeking a better life is a good intention but not if the fulfilment of such dream risks the lives of your family.

Instead of applying in El Salvador for a Visa, because of some special skill he had acquired, Oscar instead dragged his family up through central America into Mexico.  There they spent two months in a shelter near Mexico’s border with Guatamala.  Then then moved north to the banks of the Rio Grande to wait their turn to speak with Officials as to why they should be granted leave to enter the United States. There are huge numbers there and the interviews take time but the Mexican authorities provide camps.  Albeit rather basic, Mexico is not a rich country and the burden of having to put up with thousand of unwanted visitors is taking its toll.  But they were safe and always free at any time to return to El Salvador.

There are many arguments that can be made for speeding up Asylum applications, or introducing a points driven migration system like Australia, or mandatory quotas for refugees such as European countries seek to establish. There is no argument to be made for moving from a safe place and recklessly placing one’s family at such peril.

So this a not a case of people rushing from a war zone seeking Asylum and safe shelter. Rather, there is an argument that this is a personal family tragedy, with Oscar seen more as an unsafe parent whose wanton disregard for his children’s safety make this such a sad case of child abuse. As it is, his actions were not brave, they were those of culpable homicide.  Sadly it was his actions and frustration that killed his daughter and nothing else.

Copyright David Macadam 2019