Tragedy struck the migrant community once again as a fire at a detention center in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, left at least 40 people dead and 28 injured, according to Mexican authorities. The fire broke out in an area where 68 elderly male migrants were staying. The National Migration Institute (INM) reported that among the affected migrants, there was a Colombian, an Ecuadorian, 12 Salvadorans, 12 Venezuelans, 13 Hondurans, and 28 Guatemalans, and their identification was still being confirmed. Meanwhile, 15 elderly female migrants were taken care of after being evacuated during the fire.
The INM stated that it will cover the funeral expenses of the deceased migrants and also offer support and assistance, such as a Visitor Card for Humanitarian Reasons, which guarantees hospital care. However, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stated that the tragedy occurred due to migrants protesting and setting mattresses, leading to the fire. He added that the migrants started the fire when they found out they were going to be deported. Migrants held a peaceful protest rejecting the government’s narrative, stating they could not leave the detention center during the fire.
The Foreign Minister of Guatemala, Mario Búcaro, confirmed the fatalities of 28 Guatemalan migrants and expressed the importance of finding the truth and those responsible for the tragedy. Images of the place showed rows of bodies covered under emergency blankets in front of the compound, with ambulances, firefighters, and morgue vans seen in the area. The incident started just a few hours after authorities detained hundreds of migrants in the streets of downtown Ciudad Juárez, near the international bridge that crosses into the Texan city of El Paso. The city has seen an increase in migrants in recent weeks in anticipation of the lifting of Title 42 policy, the public health order that has allowed US border agents to quickly expel migrants.
Ciudad Juárez is a significant transit point for migrants arriving in the United States, with shelters full of migrants waiting for opportunities to cross or who have applied for asylum in the United States and are waiting for their case to be processed. Meanwhile, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office has opened an investigation and sent investigators on the scene. This tragedy highlights the urgent need for proper care and humane treatment of migrants, especially during the ongoing global pandemic.