At least 39 people were killed and 29 others seriously injured in a fire that broke out in a government-run migration facility in Ciudad Juárez, a northern border city of Mexico, on March 27. The facility, run by the National Migration Institute, housed 68 men from Central and South America, mainly from Cuba and Venezuela.
According to a statement from the institute, the fire broke out in the accommodation area shortly before 10 p.m. local time. The injured men were transported to local hospitals for urgent care and were reported to be in serious condition. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that the men housed at the facility had been angry at authorities and set mattresses on fire as a protest. "They did not imagine that this was going to cause this terrible tragedy," he said at his regular daily news conference on March 28. "We assume it was because they found out they were going to be deported."
Television footage showed a swarm of police cars, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles in the area. The facility's parking lot was filled with people outside who clung to the perimeter fence as emergency responders tended to the victims. What appeared to be a number of bodies wrapped in large foil blankets could be seen in the area.
The institute said that it had begun communicating "with consular authorities from different countries" in order to identify the dead. A formal complaint had been lodged with the "corresponding authorities," clearing the way for an investigation, the statement said.
In the hours before the disaster, several news outlets reported that personnel from the institute had been rounding up migrants in the city who were begging or selling merchandise on the street. There had been tension at the institute between migrants and the staff, according to reports.
Ciudad Juárez is one of the border communities in Mexico where migrants from Cuba, Central America, and elsewhere wait as they try to enter the United States. Earlier this month, American officials stopped hundreds of migrants, most of them from Venezuela, from entering the country after a large group in Ciudad Juárez broke through Mexican lines in an attempt to claim asylum in the United States.
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