A video shows how the police abandoned the detained migrants – mostly from Venezuela – in a state center located on the bridge that connects Ciudad Juárez with El Paso.
- Language You said, you loved… the newspeak of Mexican populism
An arson attack at a migrant detention center in Ciudad Juárez has left a provisional balance of 40 dead and 28 wounded. The events occurred shortly after 9 pm on Monday, when a group of migrants locked up decided to set fire to their mattresses to try to stop their imminent deportation.
As confirmed by the National Institute of Migration (INM), all the victims are men, 28 of Guatemalan origin, who had been arrested that same day in the border city. Despite the fact that the events occurred inside a federal center, the Government of López Obrador has rejected any responsibility for what happened and has blamed the victims themselves for the tragedy.
“This had to do with a protest that they started,” AMLO assured in his first public intervention before the media. Of the two hours and forty minutes that the morning of this Tuesday – the President’s controversial daily conference – Lpez Obrador has dedicated less than two minutes to refer to one of the worst immigration tragedies that the country has suffered in recent years: “Since, we suppose, they found out that they were going to be deported or mobilized and as a protest, at the door of the shelter, they put mattresses, set them on fire and did not imagine that this was going to cause this terrible misfortune” .
The authorities have confirmed that there are 29 injured in a “serious-delicate state” who are being treated in four hospitals in Ciudad Juárez, while on the outskirts of the detention center relatives of the migrants continue to gather in search of answers.
According to what Vianey Infante, a Venezuelan migrant who was waiting for her husband’s release at the gates of the center when the fire broke out, told the local press, “It’s Migration’s fault, what is happening is their fault”. Infante, whose husband is recovering from the poisoning at a local hospital, managed to witness how the INM agents evacuated the women from their cells, while huge columns of smoke rose from the men’s pavilion, “I looked out and started crying (… .) They are inhumane”. Given the lack of explanations from the AMLO government, several local media have delved into what happened, pointing out that the protests began because “during the whole day they had not been given water to drink and were thirsty“. The claims rose in tone and, presumably, the migrant captives decided to set fire to the mats.
A video captured by security cameras reveals how several immigration agents move away from the scene, without showing any interest in opening the doors, while the flames spread inside the cells. Ambulances and rescue workers have worked for several hours in this detention center located next to the Stanton-Lerdo International Bridge, at the very gates of USA.
The tragedy comes in a context of increasing migratory pressure in the region, with 2.76 million people detained at the border between Mexico and the United States during 2022. As confirmed by the US authorities, last December a record number of catches was reached with 251,487, which represents an average of more than 8,000 per day. Faced with pressure from Republicans, who govern most of the border states, President Joe Biden announced on January 5 the implementation of a plan of 30,000 monthly humanitarian visas for Venezuelan, Cuban, Haitian and Nicaraguan migrants. However, these permits can only be requested if the country is accessed by air, leaving out all those who try to enter illegally or have been stranded on Mexican soil.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has called on the Mexican authorities for “an exhaustive investigation” into what happened. Through a statement, the INM has rejected “the acts that led to this tragedy” and has promised to provide “all support to the families of the victims.” While the experts manage to confirm the identity of all the deceased, the outrage over what happened and the lack of government responses continues to grow. For the moment, the Government of López Obrador continues without giving more details, nor does it clarify how long it took to open the padlocks of the cells in which 40 migrants who were under the protection of federal authorities were burned to death.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism