A raging fire at a migrant center near the United States-Mexico border killed at least 40, and officials believe the asylum seekers set the fire in protest of their imminent deportation.
Most of those who died were Guatemalan citizens
According to AP News, the incident broke out Monday night at a center run by the National Migration Institute in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas.
A total of 68 men were being held at the center at the time, and initial reports say 39 died while the remaining 29 were taken to hospitals in “a critical condition”. However, the death toll was eventually increased to 40.
According to reports, the injured and dead came from the Central and South American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Guatemalan Foreign Minister Mario Búcaro notes that the vast majority of those who died were Guatemalan citizens.
Officials say migrants set mattresses on fire to protest upcoming deportation
Specifically, AP News reports that Andrés Manuel López Obrador — the President of Mexico — said the fire was set by the migrants themselves after learning they would be deported.
Regarding the situation, López Obrador added: “You never thought that this would cause this terrible calamity.”
However, we must note that there is some resistance to the officials’ narrative that the migrants started the fire themselves. Indeed, Dallas Morning News correspondent Alfredo Corchado notes that a Haitian migrant described the situation as a “crime against humanity.”
“We want justice. This is a crime against humanity.”
The Haitian, who called himself El Charlie, said it was an international crime because migrants cannot leave the detention center, which is more like an administrative office. “We want justice. This is a crime against humanity.” pic.twitter.com/1yT76ElGgH
— Alfredo Corchado (@ajcorchado) March 28, 2023
Furthermore, Felipe González Morales – the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants – blames the tragedy on “the widespread use of immigrant detention”.
There are currently no further updates. We extend our prayers and condolences to the survivors and families of those who have died.