(Ciudad Juárez) The Mexican president assured Wednesday that there would be “no impunity” after the fire that killed 38 people in a detention center for migrants in Ciudad Juárez, in northern Mexico in the United States border.
On the spot, dozens of people are waiting in anguish for news of their loved ones, noted an AFP journalist.
“We are not going to hide anything and there is not going to be impunity”, assured President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, announcing the presentation of a first report by the authorities in the afternoon on this fire which also injured 28.
He called for “those who caused this painful tragedy to be punished according to law”.
In a video broadcast by several media, including AFP, which shows the start of the fire in the night from Monday to Tuesday, we can see, behind bars, in the smoke, a man kicking against a door closed while another seems to lay a mattress on the floor. They then retreat with other individuals.
In the foreground, on the other side of the cell, three officers, two of whom are in uniform, retire offscreen with their backs to them, without giving them assistance.
At first, the Mexican president had estimated that the migrants had started the fire with mattresses in a movement of “protest”.
“We assume that they learned that they were going to be deported, moved,” he said Tuesday hours after this tragedy, unprecedented in facilities for migrants in Mexico.
“Our government does not allow the violation of human rights or impunity,” he insisted on Wednesday, appearing to change his tune under the effect of the video. “We will act responsibly,” he added, promising sanctions.
“How is it possible that the Mexican authorities left human beings locked up with no possibility of escaping the fire? asked Erika Guevara Rosas, director of Amnesty International for the Americas, in a statement on Tuesday.
“We pray for the migrants who died yesterday in the tragic fire in Ciudad Juárez,” Pope Francis said.
The authorities had still not given Wednesday the identity and the number of deaths by nationality. The condition of the injured was also not specified.
Guatemala said 28 of its nationals died in the disaster.
The Mexican authorities also spoke of Hondurans, Venezuelans, Salvadorans among the victims.
Dozens of migrants spent the night in front of the facilities of the National Institute for Migration (INM), where the fire occurred.
“We want to know, if they were inside or not,” Venezuelan Gilbert Zabaleta told AFP, looking for two friends.
The fire started shortly before midnight on the night of Monday to Tuesday, in a center which was a place of detention according to the governor of the state of Chihuahua Maria Eugenia Campos and the testimony of migrants.
In the wake of the tragedy, the United Nations advocated for “safer” migration routes to the United States and the United States Ambassador to Mexico insisted on “fixing a broken migration system” with his partners in the region.
Ciudad Juárez, neighboring El Paso (Texas), is one of the border towns from which many undocumented migrants seek to reach the United States to seek asylum after a long journey.
Since 2014, approximately 7,661 migrants have died or gone missing en route to US territory, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
US President Joe Biden took new restrictive measures in February, forcing migrants to apply in transit countries or online.
The measures also provide for more frequent use by the United States of immediate deportations, accompanied by a ban on new entry into its territory for five years.
Some 200,000 people attempt to cross the border between Mexico and its northern neighbor each month. Migrants say they want to escape poverty or violence in their countries of origin.