Mexico City, Mar 28 (EFE).- At least 40 people have died in a fire at a government-run migrant center in the northern Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez, which the country’s leader said had started during a protest against deportation.
Around 68 men from Central and South America were inside the center run by Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) when the fire broke out on Monday night.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in his morning press conference that the incident occurred Monday at 9.30 pm (04:30 GMT) in Ciudad Juárez, across from El Paso, Texas.
An initial report had announced the deaths of 37 migrants, most of them from Central America and Venezuela.
On Tuesday, INM raised that figure to 40 dead and 28 injured, and said it was assisting 15 women who were evacuated from the center when the fire started.
López Obrador blamed a migrant protest for the fire.
“This had to do with a protest that they started after, we assume, they found out that they were going to be deported, and as a protest, they put mattresses from the shelter at the door of the shelter, and they set fire to them,” he said.
“They did not imagine that this was going to cause this terrible accident.”
Before the incident, authorities had carried out an operation to round up migrants from the city’s streets and detain them at the center.
The INM said that it was working with the Attorney General’s Office and with the National Human Rights Commission using “testimonies and evidence to clarify the truth of what happened.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a thorough investigation into the incident.
The number of migrants in the area has increased this year since the US announced new measures, including the immediate deportation of those from Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba who arrive by land under Title 42.
The Mexican government has also faced criticism from human rights organizations for accepting US policies and deploying more than 20,000 troops to the borders for immigration tasks.
According to Mexican civil society organizations, 2022 was the most tragic year for migrants in Mexico, as some 900 died trying to cross from the country into the US.
The region is experiencing a record migration flow, with 2.76 million undocumented migrants detained at the US-Mexico border in fiscal year 2022. EFE