(Bloomberg) -- A fire that killed 40 migrants who were about to be deported from Ciudad Juarez highlights the increasing tension over Mexico’s continued crackdown on migrants trying to reach the US.
The blaze on Monday night, one of the deadliest in recent history at the Mexico-US border, was provoked by Venezuelan and Central American migrants in a facility in the city bordering Texas, said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday morning. The fire was started slightly before 10 p.m. in the center for adults, the National Migration Institute said in a statement.
“This had to do with a protest that they started when they realized that they were going to be deported, moved, and as a protest they put cots in the door of the shelter and they set them on fire,” said AMLO, as the president is known, at a press briefing. “It’s very sad that this has happened.”
Another 28 migrants were injured by the fire and were transferred to local hospitals, some in serious condition, the statement added. The severe injuries and burns are making the process of identifying victims more complicated, said Venezuela’s Ambassador in Mexico Francisco Arias Cardenas.
Guatemala’s migration office said in a statement that at least 28 of the victims were from that country. Mexico’s attorney general’s office reported that an Ecuadorian, Colombian, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans and Venezuelans were all in the facility. The dead have yet to be identified by name, Lopez Obrador said.
White House National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a tweet that the US was ready to provide any support needed to Mexico and she wrote, “Our prayers are with those who lost their lives, their loved ones, and those still fighting for their lives.”
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In 2022, Mexico’s immigration authorities returned over 100,000 people to their countries of origin. The majority were from Central America but in recent years, Mexico has seen a growing number of people traveling from other countries, ranging from Haiti to Ecuador, with some arriving from as far as India and Russia.
In 2020, a protest and a fire in an immigration facility in Tenosique, in southern Mexico, also left one migrant dead after the people inside were unable to escape.
--With assistance from Fabiola Zerpa and Patricia Laya.
(Update with number of migrants dead in first sentence and nationalities in fifth.)
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