At least 38 people were killed and 28 injured in a fire at a migrant detention center in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, on the border with the United States, according to the Mexican government. The fire broke out on Monday night in the facilities of the National Migration Institute (INM) in the state of Chihuahua.
According to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the fire was caused by a protest against deportation. As a protest, at the door of the shelter they put mattresses and set fire to them, and they did not imagine that this was going to cause this terrible misfortune, he said.
Video surveillance images show a group of people, apparently migrants, attempting to kick a fence and escape while the fire spreads. Meanwhile, at least three uniformed immigration agents are seen circulating on the other side of the fence without making any visible move to help them.
Medios mexicanos han difundido el video de la cámara de seguridad del centro de detención del INM, en el que se videncia cómo los funcionarios del Gobierno mexicano dejaron encerrados a los migrantes en el incendio en Ciudad Juárez, que provocó al menos 39 muertos.— Gabriel Bastidas (@Gbastidas) March 28, 2023
The INM confirmed the deaths of 38 people from six different nationalities (one from Colombia, one from Ecuador, 12 from El Salvador, 28 from Guatemala, 13 from Honduras, and 13 from Venezuela) after conducting a tour of the hospitals where the victims were hospitalized. The number of wounded is not detailed, although the most recent report lists 28.
The injured, some of them seriously, were transferred to four hospitals, and the INM is coordinating with consular officials to identify the deceased. The tragedy has led to calls for a thorough investigation by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, called it a reminder of the risks of irregular migration and emphasized the urgency of repairing a broken immigration system, according to a statement.
Amnesty International, for its part, stated that the fire is a consequence of the restrictive and cruel migration policies shared by the governments of Mexico and the United States.
How is it possible that the Mexican authorities have left human beings locked up without the possibility of escaping the fire? said Erika Guevara Rosas, the organization's Americas director, in a statement.
The fire started in the area where undocumented foreigners are housed. An AFP journalist witnessed the moment when rescuers removed the bodies to place them in the parking area of the compound before they were taken away by forensic personnel.
Clinging to an ambulance, a Venezuelan woman who identified herself as Viangly was shouting for her 27-year-old husband, who she said was detained despite having the documents to stay in Mexico.
”They took him away in an ambulance. They (immigration officials) don't tell you anything, a family member can die and they don't tell you 'he's dead', she said minutes later, upset.
The fire at this center near the U.S. border mobilized firefighters and dozens of ambulances.
The International Rescue Committee warned on Twitter on Tuesday that the deterioration of conditions in border migrant holding centers subjects them to unnecessary dangers.
Many migrants were transferred to the Ciudad Juarez station in recent days after local authorities removed street vendors, many of them foreigners, from the area.
What happened in the streets has nothing to do with what happened there, the city's mayor, Cruz Perez Cuellar, told reporters, denying that raids” had been launched before the catastrophe.
The site of the tragedy remained guarded on Tuesday by military and national guards.
Ciudad Juarez, which borders El Paso, Texas, is one of the border towns where numerous migrants seeking to cross into the United States to seek refuge remain stranded.
Tired of waiting, hundreds of them, mostly Venezuelans, tried unsuccessfully to stampede across an international bridge on March 13.
A report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) states that since 2014, some 4,400 people have died or disappeared on the 3,180-km U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. President Joe Biden tightened immigration policy, forcing migrants from Ukraine, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti to request asylum from the countries through which they transit or to manage appointments online.
By Hérika MARTÍNEZ – AFP
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