At least forty people died in a fire at a migrant processing center in Mexico that officials say began during a demonstration against deportations. Several victims had traveled from Central and South America to the United States.
Monday evening, just before 22:00 local time (04:00 GMT), a fire broke out at the plant in Ciudad Juárez. Located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, the community has seen an increase in population in recent weeks.
Many have been making their way to the US border in anticipation of an end to Title 42, a policy from the epidemic era that provides the US government the authority to swiftly remove people attempting to cross its border. Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated migrants had set mattresses fire.
"We believe it was related to a protest they began after learning they would be deported," the president stated. "They did not anticipate that it would result in this dreadful disaster," he continued.
Images from the scene depict body bags lined up on the sidewalk. According to local sources, the migrants who were inside the building where the fire occurred were transported to a center on Monday.
The complex is located close to the Stanton-Lerdo Bridge, which connects the United States and Mexico. Moreover, twenty-nine persons were injured in the fire. When the fire broke out, approximately 68 males from Central and South America were inside the center, which is operated by Mexico's National Migration Institute (INM).
US Customs and Border Protection stated in a statement that they were "prepared to receive and process anyone injured in the fire who are being brought by ambulance from Mexican medical institutions to American medical facilities for treatment." Authorities in Mexico reported that among the deceased and injured were individuals from Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia, and Ecuador.
The fire claimed the lives of twenty-eight Guatemalans, foreign minister Mario Bucaro told reporters. Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres demanded a "thorough examination."
Mr. Guterres, according to a spokesperson, will "continue working with the authorities of countries with mixed migratory flows to build safer, more regulated, and organized migration pathways." Ken Salazar, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, stated that the tragedy was "a warning to the nations of the area of the urgency of repairing a broken migratory system and the dangers of irregular migration."
Title 42, which permits US border officers to prohibit admission to individuals "to prevent the spread of contagious disease," was first enacted during the onset of the Covid pandemic. The Biden administration has indicated its desire to end the Trump-era policy, but it remains in effect for the time being.
Since the announcement, the number of migrants in Ciudad Juárez anticipating the potential removal of limitations has increased.
Recently, hundreds of angry migrants, the majority of whom were Venezuelan, attempted to push their way across an international bridge from the Mexican city into El Paso. The US government erected physical barriers, citing the group's "possible threat of mass entry."