At least 39 Central and South American migrants died in a fire that broke out on Monday night at a migrant detention center in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, on the border with the US city of El Paso, in Texas.
Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador said authorities in the country believe the fire started in the city after migrants set fire to mattresses in protest after learning they were being deported.
“They didn’t think it could lead to such a terrible tragedy,” López Obrador told a news conference, noting that most of the center’s migrants were from Central America and Venezuela.
Among the dead were migrants from Guatemala and Honduras, Mexican officials told Reuters. Twenty-eight of those who died in the detention center were Guatemalans, the Guatemalan National Institute for Migration said.
A total of 68 men from Central and South America were at the center, the Mexican National Institute for Migration (INM) said.
Twenty-nine of them were injured in the fire and were taken to four area hospitals, INM said in a statement.
Mexico’s border towns have seen a backlog of migrants in recent weeks as authorities rush to process asylum claims with a new US government-developed app known as CBP One.
Many migrants feel the process is taking too long, and earlier this month hundreds of migrants, mostly from Venezuela, fought with US government officials at the border.
In January, the Biden administration said it would expand Trump restrictions to quickly weed out Cuban, Nicaraguan and Haitian migrants caught illegally crossing the US-Mexico border.
Meanwhile, the United States said it would allow up to 30,000 migrants from the three countries plus Venezuela to enter the country each month.
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