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Thirty-nine killed in fire at Mexico migrants facility

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CIUDAD JUAREZ: At least 39 migrants from Central and South America died after a fire broke out at a migrant holding centre in the Mexican northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, the government’s National Migration Institute (INM) said on Tuesday.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the blaze apparently broke out after migrants set fire to mattresses in protest after discovering they would be deported.

“They didn’t think that would cause this terrible tragedy,” Lopez Obrador told a news conference, noting that most migrants at the facility were from Central America and Venezuela.

President Obrador says asylum seekers apparently burnt mattresses to stop being deported

There were 68 adult men from Central and South America staying at the facility in the city opposite El Paso, Texas, the INM said in a statement. Twenty-nine of them were injured in the blaze and taken to four hospitals in the area.

Those who died included migrants from Guatemala and Honduras, a Mexican official said.

“I was here since one in the afternoon waiting for the father of my children, and when 10pm rolled around, smoke started coming out from everywhere,” said 31-year-old Viangly Infante, a Venezuelan national.

Her husband, 27-year-old Eduard Caraballo, was in a holding cell inside the facility when the fire started.

Recent weeks have seen a buildup of migrants in Mexican border cities as authorities attempt to process asylum requests using a new US government app known as CBP One.

Many migrants feel the process is taking too long and earlier this month hundreds of mostly Venezuelan migrants got into a scuffle with US officials at the border after their frustration welled up about securing asylum appointments.

The blaze in Ciudad Juarez is one of the deadliest incidents to afflict migrants in Mexico in recent decades.

Forty-nine children died following a blaze in a daycare centre in the northern city of Hermosillo in 2009, while 72 migrants were massacred by drug cartel gunmen in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas the following year.

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2023


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