Families separated by US-Mexico border have fleeting reunion

Families separated by the US-Mexico border are reunited for a few minutes in a "Hugs Not Walls" event in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on June 24, 2017 (AFP Photo/Herika Martinez) (AFP)

Ciudad Juárez (Mexico) (AFP) - After more than a decade apart, the Pastrana family on Saturday finally got to embrace during a special event allowing nearly 200 families separated by the US-Mexico border to spend three minutes together.

The meeting took place in the middle of the murky Rio Grande -- which divides the Mexican city Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas and is crossable this time of year -- under the watchful eye of Border Patrol agents.

"It has been a very long 11 years," said Claudia Pastrana, a 42-year-old from Ciudad Juarez, after hugging her sister and niece who now live in Texas.

"It is an unforgettable moment."

More than 2,500 people of the 195 families separated by immigration or deportations attended the event, dubbed "Hugs Not Walls," which is organized by the non-profit Border Network of Human Rights group.

It is the fourth round of the event, and the second since the presidential election of Donald Trump, who has on numerous occasions targeted Mexicans with anti-immigration rhetoric.

"It is a way of protesting and raising a voice against aggressive policies of the current (US) president," said Fernando Garcia, director of the Border Network.

Border patrol authorities stood on guard "so that no one is going to cross at the time of the hugs," said Ramiro Cordero, spokesman for the El Paso sector's border patrol.

After the brief but spirited meeting, Pastrana, who attended with her son and nephew, returned to the Mexican side.

From there she waved her arms in a long farewell to her sister, until she lost sight.