Few can look without a shudder at the picture, that found prime space in world media, of the father and child who died in Rio Grande river lying along the Mexico-US border. The 26-year old Oscar Alberto Martinez and his two-year old daughter Valeria lay dead, with the daughter's hands clasping the shoulder of her father – a scene sure to pain any soul.
The 2015 picture of the Syrian child Alan Kurdi that was found in Istanbul coast had made quite a stir around the globe. The response to the picture of Martinez and daughter Valeria is along the same lines. Martinez and family had, like thousands of others, made an escape from Central America's El Salvador to America in search of a better life. For quite some time there has been an exodus of refugees from central American countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, countries that have come to become some of the most dangerous to live in due to poverty and messy law and order.
Ever since Donald Trump became US president, his country has been adopting a highly negative approach towards refugees and immigrants. In a way, the death of Martinez and daughter Valeria can be attributed to Trump. Martinez had filed an application with the office in Mattamaros at the border between Mexico and America, seeking refuge. But the request was rejected, so he decided to cross the river, but that eventually turned out to be a journey to death.
When the world laments over the picture of Martinez and his daughter, we should remember another incident of 12 July. That was the day the Italian parliament passed a new curious law, that prescribed a fine of Euro 50,000 on any one who rescues refugees crossing the sea into the country. The law also empowers the government to seize the boats that try to save the asylum-seekers. Remember this law - passed by a country whose capital is Rome, believed to be a birth place of culture - would be like one that imposes an ambulance driver for driving a patient to hospital. But the 'progressive' world responded to this law with a sublime silence.
The prejudice against refugees and immigrants is on the increase in the world. Political movements that embrace a hatred for the 'other', seem to be winning an upper hand. The second-time victory of Modi in India and that of Trump in America, the gains made by anti-immigrant forces in European parliament elections and Brexit are all signs of this trend. In India, there is a move afoot to expel over 4 million people branded as Bangladeshis. Those who have been living here for generations, and even some who had served in official positions and military, are being required to produce evidence of their being Indians.
It is through long journeys, migrations and settlements that human civilization has reached where it is today. Man not only stands with his roots entrenched firm in the land where he is born. His native home is the entire world. Borders are a man-made mechanism for administrative convenience. When a human being sees his life in stalemate, he and then knocks on a door, it would be inhuman to close the door against him. This is an era when a theory of national purity is crystallising like a dogma of purity of blood. And this is the theory raised by the newgen right wing.
Take the example of Donald Trump who leads the crusade against immigration. He is a German migrant via his father and of Scotch origin by his mother's roots. If Trump's first wife Ivana was of Czech race, his current wife Melania is a Slovenian! America is a country that was built up by immigrants from different countries and those imported as slaves. How pathetically paradoxical then that it is in the border of such a country that little children die while in search of refuge?
There are those who ask whether opening the doors to refugees would not deprive the host country of its peace and economic stability. Turkey is a country that stands first among nations in this respect, by having received five million refugees. In that country, their number is even higher than the total population of several developed countries. Still, Turkey has shown a remarkable model of how refugees can be brought to the mainstream without expelling them and without tying them down to refugee tents.
Turkey proves that if the human resources of refugees are put to right use, it can result only in economic progress. Equally laudable is the immigration-friendly approach of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who also said Canadian economy is made collectively by immigrants.
The need of the hour is to rise to the mind-set of not 'them and us' but 'us all'.