Thirty-nine dead, 27 injured after fire breaks out at migrant detention center in Juarez, Mexico


(NEW YORK) — A fire broke out at a migrant detention center in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Monday, killing 39 people, officials said.

The blaze began as the result of a protest by people being held in the facility, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico said in a morning press conference. Protestors lit a mattress on fire inside the building, after some at the facility were informed they’d be deported, Obrador said.

“We do not yet know the names and nationalities of those who lost their lives,” he said, adding that they were mainly from Central America.

The Mexican National Institute of Migration (INM) had said Tuesday night there were 38 people dead. The INM had previously said 40 people died in the fire.

In a tweet Tuesday night, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the people responsible for the fire have been brought before the Mexican attorney general.

Rosa Icela Rodríguez Velázquez, the Mexican secretary of security and citizen protection, identified eight people Wednesday who were likely responsible for the fire and crimes related to the fire.

In addition to the eight suspects, officials said they believe that federal and state agents, as well as security guards, are also responsible for the fire.

“At 8:30 p.m., migrants gathered mattresses and minutes later set them on fire. None of the civil servants, nor the security guards, took any action to open the door to the migrants who were inside with the fire,” Sara Irene Herrerías Guerra, head of the Specialized Prosecutor for Human Rights, said.

Mexican authorities said the fact that security guards did not open the cell doors when the fire started is “part of the investigation” and called this action a “serious crime.”

Additionally, Mexican authorities seek to charge the eight suspects with crimes including intentional homicide, directly called “homicidio doloso” in Spanish, injuries and damage to property, officials said.

Law enforcement officials are working to get four arrest warrants for the eight people believed to be responsible for the crimes, they said.

The eight individuals have given their statements to the attorney general’s office. At least one of the suspects is a migrant, the officials said.

The suspects have not been detained, because the Mexican authorities are currently waiting to obtain the arrest warrants.

The fire started at about 10 p.m. on Monday at the Instituto Nacional de Migración, Mexico’s Institute of Migration said early Tuesday. Sixty-eight men from Central and South America had been housed in the facility at the time of the fire, officials said.

The dead were all migrants, according to the statement. Another 27 people were injured, some seriously, and were transferred to four local hospitals, authorities said.

The center is in an area across the border from El Paso, Texas, and is close to the Puente Internacional Lerdo Stanton bridge.

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