A migrant injured in a fire in an immigration station in Mexico is carried to a waiting ambulance A migrant injured in a fire in an immigration station in Mexico is carried to a waiting ambulance  (AFP or licensors)

Dozens killed in fire at migrant centre in Mexico

At least 39 people have died and dozens more were injured in a fire at a detention centre for migrants in the Mexican city of Juarez on the US border.

By James Blears

A blaze in a dormitory at a Mexican immigration detention centre in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, has killed thirty-nine people and injured twenty-nine more.

The office of Mexico’s attorney general has launched an investigation into the fire, which began in the dormitory of the centre and quickly spread through the rest of the building. There are reports of an incident before the blaze started.

Listen to James Blears' report

The bodies of victims, covered in sheets, were placed in rows outside the centre, while the injured – some of whom are in critical condition – were rushed to local hospitals. Immigration officials say that the centre contained sixty-eight men, mostly from Venezuela, who had been detained only hours before.

The Rio Grande River flows swiftly between Cuidad Juarez, on the Mexican side of the border, and El Paso in Texas on the US side. Juarez immigration centres are crammed to bursting point with impoverished migrants from Central and South America and further afield. They are desperate to reach the United States, to fulfil their dream.

Yet they run the gauntlet of a deadly corridor littered with migrant smugglers known as coyotees, who are often in league with the drug cartels. Together, they are part of the nightmare. The International Organization of Migration says that since 2014 more than 7,000 people have died or vanished risking this journey, which has cost them their lives.

A recent letter published by migrants accuses Mexican authorities of heavy-handed tactics and of police interrogating people on the street about their migration status.

In the United States, the Biden administration imposed new laws in February which deny asylum application to those reaching US soil. But legal technicalities are not stemming the flow of undocumented migrants, with more than 200,000 attempting to cross the border annually.

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28 March 2023, 17:07