A confrontational image sends shockwaves internationally over human rights violations, but the photographer claims that not everything is as it seems.
A confrontational image sends shockwaves through the United States over human rights violations, but the photographer claims that not everything is as it seems.
Last Sunday, AFP photographer Paul Ratje took a few steps on the border between the United States and Mexico, which has caused outrage.
The photos appear to show U.S.-assembled police officers grazing Haitian migrants as “cattle” and use aggressive tactics such as whipping them with their horses’ reins to keep them in line.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorka’s and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called all the images “horrible” and “terrible.”
Human Rights Watch condemned the site, with says a spokesman“The US government showed total disrespect for the right to seek asylum when it sent agents on horseback with reins hovering to control and deter this largely black immigrant population.”
The Biden administration has promised to investigate the incident, with President Joe Biden himself calling the images “horrible” and promising that “people will pay”.
The US envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, even resigned on Thursday, on the grounds that he “will not be associated with the United States’ inhuman, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees.”
But the photographer, Mr Ratje, said that something important had been overlooked.
Why are the Haitians at the border?
Thousands of Haitian migrants have appeared on the Texas-Mexico border in recent weeks and want to cross Rio Grande waterways to the United States.
The number of Haitian migrants swelled from about 400 to 14,000 in days, creating a migrant camp under a bridge near the border, according to CNN.
It seems quite unusual for Haitians to camp on the border with the United States, given that they live on an island and it would be quite tricky to reach Mexico.
This is because the government already in May announced an 18-month temporary protection status for Haitians who already live in the United States.
The United States then said it granted the concession because of the region’s “security concerns, social unrest, growing human rights abuses, crippling poverty and lack of basic resources, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Since the announcement, Haiti has been subjected to even more unrest – its president was assassinated and then a devastating earthquake.
Haitians flocked to the border by traveling through countries in Central and South America, from Guatemala to Chile. In Colombia alone, about 30,000 Haitians want to travel north to the United States.
The problem is that the special 18-month immigration status has expired. It only applied to Haitians who could enter the country by July 29.
As a result, the United States is now launching a concerted effort to send the Haitians on their way.
Repatriation flights raised.
Twelve flights with Haitians back to their broken country have taken off and 1,401 migrants have returned to Haiti in the past six days. Just on Wednesday, two flights with Haitian migrants on board started.
In August, the last month with publicly available data, more than 70,000 migrant families – though not all of them Haitians – were deported, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
What does the photographer say?
The man behind the controversial images was based in Las Cruces and he traveled to the Del Rio migration camp last Friday. He took the photographs from the Mexican side.
“I have never seen them (US officials) whip anyone,” says Ratje told KTSM.
“He swung it, but it can be misunderstood when you look at the picture.
“Some of the Haitian men started running and tried to walk around the horses,” he added.
Whether the images really show whipping migrants wanting to enter the country, one thing is clear: Haitians are no longer welcome in the United States.
And to conclude, it does not look like the whip saga is an isolated incident.
A journalist from Al Jazeera captured on video two American officials who “ride down” migrants.
Another American rider could be heard shouting obscenities at the homeless migrants.
“Do you use your women? That’s why your country’s sh * t, because you use your women for this. ”
The American also shouted “no no no no, I said no no no no” when Haitians tried to cross.
The Texas governor even ordered a mile-long driveway of parked vehicles to create a “steel barrier” to deter migrants from trying to enter.
But after the photos surfaced, the US Department of Homeland Security promised that their officers would clear out of the camp by the end of next week.