At least 39 killed in fire at Mexico-US border migrant centre

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2023

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico: At least 39 migrants died in a fire that broke out at an immigration detention center in a Mexican city on the US border, the Mexican government said on Tuesday.

The fire broke out shortly before midnight at the National Migration Institute (INM) facility in Ciudad Juarez, prompting the mobilization of firefighters and dozens of ambulances.An AFP journalist saw forensic personnel remove a dozen bodies from the INM’s parking lot, where several other bodies were laid and covered with blankets.

“The National Migration Institute (INM) of the Interior Ministry regrets the deaths—so far—of 39 foreign migrants, caused by a fire,” an INM statement said.

A rescuer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said there were about 70 migrants, mostly Venezuelans, at the center.Numerous migrants have been detained in the center in recent days after local authorities rounded up street vendors, some of whom were foreigners, from the area.

A Venezuelan woman who gave her name as Vinagly stood outside the immigration center, desperate for information about her 27-year-old husband who had been detained there.“He was taken away in an ambulance,” she told AFP, adding that her husband had documents allowing him to remain in Mexico.

A heavy military and national guard presence blanketed the site early on Tuesday. Ciudad Juarez, which neighbours El Paso, Texas, is one of the border towns where numerous undocumented migrants seeking refuge in the United States remain stranded.

Fed up with the wait, hundreds of them attempted to storm an international bridge on March 13 but were blocked by US agents.The administration of US President Joe Biden has been hoping to stem the record tide of migrants and asylum seekers undertaking often dangerous journeys organized by human smugglers to get to the United States.

Biden proposed new restrictions on asylum seekers in February, hoping to stifle the rush of migrants to the southern border when Covid-related controls are lifted.

A recent report by the International Organization for Migration said that, since 2014, some 7,661 migrants have died or disappeared en route to the United States, while 988 perished in accidents or while traveling in subhuman conditions.