(Ciudad Juárez) 38 migrants died and 28 others were injured on Tuesday in a fire at a detention center in Ciudad Juárez in northern Mexico, bordering the United States, authorities said.
After announcing the death of 40 migrants a few hours earlier, the National Institute for Migration (INM) indicated in a press release that following a visit to the hospitals where the victims were hospitalized, “the number of deceased persons has been put updated and 38 deaths have been confirmed.”
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.
According to the President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, it was migrants who lit the fire with mattresses in a movement of “protest”: “We assume that they learned that they were going to be deported, displaced”.
“We call on the countries of the region to deal humanely, justly and effectively with the growing population flows across the Americas,” said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for “a full investigation” and pledged to “continue to work with the authorities of countries” in the region to “establish safer, more regulated and more organized pathways for migration.” “, according to his spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.
“We reiterate our commitment to continue working with governments in the region and our partners to fix this broken migration system,” said U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar. It is also about “addressing the root causes” of migration, a “regional challenge”, he said.
Amnesty International, for its part, pointed to “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 left human beings locked up with no possibility of escaping the fire? “, blamed Erika Guevara Rosas, director of the organization for the Americas, in a press release.
This tragedy – and the two previous ones in Texas in June and in southern Mexico in December 2021 – “are a reminder” of the dangers migrants face from “people traffickers”, he insisted, pleading for “legal” migration.
Among the “identified migrants” are 28 Guatemalans, 13 Hondurans, 13 Venezuelans, 12 Salvadorans, one Colombian and one Ecuadorian, Mexico’s prosecutor’s office said, citing the Migration Institute, without distinguishing between dead and injured.
The fire, unprecedented in facilities for migrants in the country, started shortly before midnight on the night of Monday to Tuesday.
It erupted in a detention center, according to Chihuahua state governor María Eugenia Campos and testimony from other migrants.
Broadcast by several media, authenticated by the authorities who “deplore” its broadcast, a video showed the start of the fire.
Behind bars, in the smoke, a man kicks against a closed door while another appears to put a mattress on the ground. 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.
In the previous days, local authorities in Juárez had raised their voices against the migrants, urging them to stop offering their informal services in the streets.
Viangly, a Venezuelan, says her 27-year-old husband was taken away after he was arrested in a roundup when she says he has Mexican papers.
The young woman screams in despair as she tries to look inside an ambulance, complaining that center officials are “not saying anything”. “We’re human too, we have feelings, we’re treated like dogs.”
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 crossing many countries.
Since 2014, approximately 7,661 migrants have died or gone missing en route to the United States, 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 the territory for five years.
Some 200,000 people attempt to cross the border between Mexico and the United States each month. Migrants say they want to escape poverty or violence in their countries of origin.