At least 39 migrants from Central and South America have died in a fire at a center at the National Migration Institute on the Mexico-US border, authorities said on Tuesday. As reported, the tragedy occurred as a result of setting fire to mattresses by migrants detained on the streets.
The fire broke out on Monday evening at the migrant center of the National Institute of Migration in Ciudad Juarez. The city is located on the border between Mexico and the United States. The incident happened after the migration services took a group of migrants from the streets of the city and detained its members.
Mexico’s president: fire started after mattresses were set on fire in protest
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said authorities believed the fire started after some migrants set fire to mattresses in protest after discovering they would be deported.
“They didn’t think it would cause such a terrible tragedy,” Lopez Obrador told the conference. He also reported that most of the migrants at the facility came from Central America and Venezuela.
A spokesman for Guatemala’s foreign ministry said Mexican officials had informed the Guatemalan government that several Venezuelans had set fire to the mattresses.
Authorities: A total of 39 migrants have died and many are injured
The facility housed 68 adult men from Central and South America, Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) said in a statement. 29 of them were injured. They were taken to four local hospitals. 39 people died in the tragedy.
Guatemala’s national migration institute said 28 of the dead were citizens of the country. An official of the Honduran Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that 13 Honduran citizens were in the center. It is not known at this time if any of them died.
“They all ran away but the men were locked up”
“I’ve been here since 1 p.m., waiting for the father of my children, and when it came to 10 p.m., smoke started coming out of everywhere,” said Viangly Infante, 31, a Venezuelan national. – They all ran away, but they left the men locked up. Everyone left the area but left the men locked up, she added.
Her husband, 27-year-old Eduard Caraballo, was in a cell inside the facility when the fire broke out. The woman reported that he survived because he poured water on himself and pressed himself against the door.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson expressed her sadness on Twitter over the “heartbreaking tragedy.” She declared that the US government is ready to provide Mexico with the necessary support.
Tense situation due to the influx of migrants
The fire in Ciudad Juarez is one of the deadliest incidents to affect migrants in Mexico in the last few decades. It came at a time when this country and the United States are dealing with a huge number of people crossing the border.
Recent weeks have seen a build-up of migrants in Mexican border towns. Authorities are trying to process asylum applications using a new US government app called CBP One. Many migrants feel that this process is taking too long and therefore they become increasingly frustrated. Earlier this March, migrants, mostly from Venezuela, got into a fight with US officials at the border.
In January, the Joe Biden administration said it would tighten restrictions to quickly expel Cuban, Nicaraguan and Haitian migrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. At the same time, Washington declared that it would allow up to 30,000 people from these three countries and Venezuela to enter the US by air each month.
Main photo source: Reuters, Rescue Team Ciudad Juarez