A fire that broke out at a migrant detention center in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, close to the US border, has left 39 people dead, the government's National Migration Institute said on Tuesday. A further 29 people were taken to four different hospitals due to injuries. The facility said that 68 men were being held at the time of the fire.
The facility holds people who have been detained while passing through the country in hopes of making it to the US. Many of those in the facility at the time of the fire — which broke out overnight — were from Venezuela and Guatemala. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that the fire was started by people who were protesting their detention by setting mattresses on fire. "They never imagined that this would cause this terrible misfortune," he said, adding that tensions in the facility had been running high in recent weeks. Emergency services rushed to the scene and firefighters were able to extinguish the fire. State prosecutors were also on the scene to investigate the cause of the blaze.
Ciudad Juarez lies on the other side of the border from the US city of El Paso, Texas. Many migrants end up stranded in the city waiting to be able to cross into the US. US President Joe Biden recently set out new restrictions on migration, saying that those who simply cross into the US will no longer be eligible to make asylum claims.
Some 200,000 people attempt the border crossing each month. Most come from countries in South or Central America and are fleeing poverty and violence. People, mostly from Venezuela, rioted at a migration detention facility in Tijuana in October. Another similar incident saw migrants rioting at the country's largest detention center in Tapachula close to the border with Guatemala in November. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 7,661 people have died or disappeared while trying to migrate to the US. Another 988 have been killed in accidents or due to subhuman conditions.
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