39 detained migrants die in fire

"We have known for years that the conditions in these centers are inhumane..."

A total of 39 migrants died and another 29 were injured in a fire in a building of the National Institute of Migration in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, which took place on Monday, March 27.

According to what was expressed by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at a press conference, the migrants had found out that they would be deported.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. PHOTO: NS

“As a protest, they put mattresses at the door of the shelter and set them on fire,” said President López Obrador. “They did not imagine that this was going to cause this tragedy.”

Everything would have started on the same Monday when around 70 migrants were detained in the center of Ciudad Juarez accused of causing disturbances. Other reports, on the contrary, suggest that they were removed because they were selling handicrafts and asking for money in the streets of the city.

Around 9:30 p.m., the fire started in the section where the men were staying. Which would explain why all fatalities are male.

Most of the deceased are migrants from Guatemala, but there were also people from Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela and Colombia.

Shelters are prisons

Heartbroken migrant during the fire in Ciudad Juarez. PHOTO: NS

“We have known for years that the conditions in these centers are inhumane,” Professor Luicy Pedroza, from the Center for International Studies at the Colegio de México, told CNN. “The centers, more than shelters, are prisons.”

Leaders of human rights organizations stressed that this tragic incident underscores the urgent need to address the inhumane conditions in which migrants are kept and provide them with adequate protection. Even the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has called for an investigation into the incident.

The number of migrants increases

In 2022, around 2.7 million migrants were apprehended at the US-Mexico border. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in December US immigration agents detained more than 251,000 people, or about 8,000 per day.

Reports from the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) indicate that 202,000 migrants were deported to their countries of origin and around 50,000 were returned to Mexico, as allowed by provisions of  Title 42.

But Title 42 is set to expire on May 11, and that would explain the considerable increase in the migratory flow in recent weeks, given the erroneous expectation that the border situation will change.

Beyond expectations, the reality is that since 2014, more than 4,400 migrants have died or are missing on the dangerous US-Mexico border.

On Tuesday, a group of migrants had gathered in front of the immigration offices with signs that read “We want you to understand that we are not animals, we are human beings.”

This article was supported in whole or in part by funds provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library and the Latino Media Collaborative.


  • Martín Ocampo

    Escritor y periodista de Paysandú, Uruguay, quien actualmente reside en Nueva York, EE.UU., en donde ha trabajado en diversos medios. Su corazón es charrúa y su pluma es latina.

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