Juárez Immigration Facility Fire Leaves 39 Migrants Dead

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By KELIN DILLON

On Monday, March 27, a lethal fire broke out in Mexico’s National Institute of Migration (INM) in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, reportedly leaving at least 39 victims dead and another 28 injured in its wake – all of which were male migrants from Central and South America who had purportedly been detained in the border city earlier that same day.

According to reports from the scene of the incident, the fire began after the newly detained migrants protested against their anticipated deportation the next morning by setting their sleeping mats ablaze in the facility’s bathroom, and later exacerbated the strength of the fire after highly flammable solvent was supposedly thrown onto the flames.

The blaze, which was concentrated in the INM detention facility’s male section, then began to spread throughout the building and ultimately resulted in the death of 37 male migrants on site, while another 83 migrants and seven employees were eventually evacuated from the premises.

A total of 31 seriously injured migrants were taken to the area’s private and public hospitals to treat their wounds, with three reportedly passing away shortly after.

The Guatemalan Migration Institute has already fully identified 28 of the dead migrants as Guatemalan citizens; another 39 migrants affected by the fire purportedly came from Honduras, Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador, though it remains unknown who among these individuals was injured or killed by the flames.

“The families of the victims are certain that we will do everything possible to work hand in hand with Mexico, first to find out what happened, then to find those responsible and seek a trial, punishment and reparation,” said Guatemalan Foreign Minister Mario Búcaro.

In the aftermath of the deadly incident, the INM has reportedly contacted the authorities in the victims’ home countries to help identify the bodies, filed a complaint “before the corresponding authorities” and addressed the issue with the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH).

For his part, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) made sure to address the fire at the beginning of his daily morning press conference on Tuesday, March 28, where he claimed that the dozens of deaths were directly caused by the migrants’ protests.

“This had to do with a protest that the migrants started, we suppose, after they found out that they were going to be deported, and as a protest they put mattresses at the door, set them on fire and they did not imagine that this was going to happen and cause this terrible calamity,” said López Obrador at the time.

“INM Director Francisco Garduño is there in Juárez, as are all the authorities involved in these events, and of course the Attorney General’s Office is present for legal proceedings,” AMLO went on to say before concluding his coverage of the incident, after which he did not comment on the topic again for the remaining two-plus hours of the conference.

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