Fire in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, migrant detention center near U.S. border blamed for at least 39 deaths

At least 39 people at an immigration detention center in a Mexican city on the U.S. border died in a fire that broke out at the facility overnight, according to a statement issued early Tuesday by the center, known as the National Immigration Institute (INM). Video from the scene in Ciudad Juárez showed bodies covered in blankets lined up in a row outside the facility. 

Fire at the National Migration Institute (INM) building, in Ciudad Juarez
Viangly, a Venezuelan migrant, at an ambulance for her injured husband, Eduard Caraballo, while Mexican authorities and firefighters removed injured migrants, mostly Venezuelans, from inside the National Migration Institute (INM) building during a fire in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on March 27, 2023.

JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ / REUTERS


The INM’s statement, shared on Twitter, said 29 other people were seriously injured in the blaze and taken to local hospitals. 

There was no immediate information on what caused the fire to break out around 10 p.m. local time on Monday night, but Mexican media said the country’s attorney general had initiated a formal investigation, and that investigators were already on the scene.

Mexico Migrant Deaths
An image taken from video shows bodies lying under shimmery silver sheets outside an immigration center in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, March 28, 2023, after at least 39 people died in a fire.

AP


The INM statement said 68 adult men were housed at the facility from Central and South America, and that it was communicating with consular officials from various nations to identify the victims of the blaze. 

The Guatemalan Institute of Migration, a government-run entity, said in a statement later Tuesday that at least 28 of those who died in the fire had been identified as Guatemalan nationals and that it would work with the families to have their remains returned.

“Irregular migration carries with it a series of risks, which have once again become evident; once again we call on the population to analyze and make the right decisions before embarking on such journeys, which often have no return or final destination,” the institute said.  

Dozens of ambulances and fire crews responded to the overnight blaze in Ciudad Juarez.

Fire at the National Migration Institute (INM) building, in Ciudad Juarez
Mexican authorities and firefighters remove injured migrants, mostly Venezuelans, from inside the National Migration Institute (INM) building during a fire, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico March 27, 2023.

JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ / REUTERS


The city, which neighbors El Paso, Texas, is one of the border towns where numerous undocumented migrants seeking refuge in the United States remain stranded.

A recent report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) states that since 2014, some 7,661 migrants have died or disappeared en route to the U.S. while 988 perished in accidents or while traveling in subhuman conditions.  


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