AMSTERDAM - The haunting image of a little girl crying helplessly as she and her mother are taken into custody by US border officials on Thursday (April 11) won the prestigious World Press Photo Award.
Judges said veteran Getty photographer John Moore's picture taken after Honduran mother Sandra Sanchez and her daughter Yanela illegally crossed the US-Mexican border last year showed "a different kind of violence that is psychological".
The picture of the wailing toddler was published world-wide and caused a public outcry about Washington's controversial policy to separate thousands of migrants from their children.
US Customs and Border Protection officials later said Yanela and her mom were not among those separated, but the public furore "resulted in President Donald Trump reversing the policy in June last year," the judges said.
Moore was taking pictures of US Border Patrol agents on a moonless night in the Rio Grande Valley on June 12 last year when they came across a group of people who tried to cross the border.
"I could see the fear on their faces, in their eyes," Moore told the US-based National Public Radio broadcaster in an interview shortly afterwards.
As officials took their names, Moore said he spotted Sandra Sanchez and her toddler who started wailing when her mom put her down to be searched.
"I took a knee and had very few frames of that moment before it was over," said Moore, who had been covering the US-Mexico border for a decade.
PHOTOS OF MIGRANT CARAVAN
The sensitive issue of immigration was further highlighted at Thursday's awards.
Judges chose Dutch-Swedish photographer Pieter Ten Hoopen's images of the 2018 mass-migrant caravan to the US border as its winner in the "World Press Photo Story of the Year Award".
Ten Hoopen's pictures, which show families and children as they made their way from Honduras in mid-October to the US border "showed a high sense of dignity," one of the judges said.
Trump said on Tuesday he won't resume separating children of undocumented migrants, but insisted that the policy did prevent people from illegal border crossings like a trip to "Disneyland".
His words came after he announced the departure Sunday of the official in charge of fighting illegal immigration - Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
According to US media reports, Trump's reshuffle could herald even harsher measures on the southern border.
Judges selected this year's winners from 78,801 images entered by 4,738 photographers world-wide, the Amsterdam-based organisers said.
Three lensmen from AFP, John Wessels, Brendan Smialowski and Pedro Pardo were handed one second place and three third places overall in the various categories.