Tuesday, July 23, 2024

At Least 40 Dead at Migration Center in Mexico Near U.S. Border Due to a Fire

At least 40 people were killed in a fire at a migration center along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Authorities believe the fire was caused by a protest initiated by some of the migrants detained at the center “after, we think, they found out they’d be deported,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said.

Migrants put small mattresses at the shelter’s door and set them ablaze “as a form of protest,” López Obrador said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “They didn’t imagine this would cause this misfortune.”

Anthony Gonzalez, a Venezuelan migrant at the facility, told Noticias Telemundo he is not convinced migrants could have started the fire because they are held behind padlocked doors, and everything is taken away from them before entering.

“That’s like a jail,” Gonzalez said.

The National Migration Institute did not immediately reveal the cause of the fire. It said that it “strongly rejects the acts that led to this tragedy” without elaborating on what they may have been.

Dozens of people were injured, 29 of whom were taken to hospitals in “delicate-serious conditions,” the agency said. Guatemala’s General Directorate of Migration confirmed that 28 of the dead were Guatemalans.

According to the country’s prosecutor general, 13 Hondurans, 12 Salvadorans, 12 Venezuelans, a Colombian, and an Ecuadorian were among the 68 people affected by the blaze.

Venezuelan migrant, Viangly Infante, was looking for her husband amidst the chaos.

“I was here since 1 in the afternoon waiting for the father of my children, and when 10 p.m. rolled around, smoke started coming out from everywhere,” she told Reuters.

Her husband survived, Infante said, by dousing himself in water and pressing against a door.

Francisco Garduño Yañez, the commissioner of the National Migration Institute, visited the hospitals where the injured migrants were taken to. The agency also said immigration authorities “will provide Visitor Cards for Humanitarian Reasons to the injured and will cover the medical requirements for a speedy recovery.”

Betty Camargo, the state programs director at the Border Network for Human Rights, a human rights advocacy and immigration reform organization at the U.S.-Mexico border, spoke to migrants who witnessed the fire and the events that preceded it.

Authorities inside the center told some of the detained migrants they were being deported, even though many had temporary work permits renewed every month, Camargo said. The migrants said they were told such permits would be taken away from them, she added.

Fernando García, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, said such migration centers “should not be detention centers.”

The migration centers run by the National Migration Institute are meant to be “a centro de alojamiento” (shelter)short stays for migrants in transit.

These findings have prompted the organization to call for an investigation into the fire.

NBC News