A fire believed to have been started by migrants protesting against their deportation killed at least 38 people at a Mexican immigration detention center near the US border, authorities said Tuesday, prompting demands for justice.
The blaze broke out late Monday at the National Migration Institute (INM) facility in Ciudad Juarez, prompting the mobilization of firefighters and dozens of ambulances.
The migrants were believed to have lit the fire as a demonstration because they feared they would be deported, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said.
“They put mats at the door of the shelter and set them on fire as a protest, and did not imagine that it would cause this terrible tragedy,” he told reporters.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi expressed solidarity with relatives of the victims and appealed to countries in the region “to deal in a humane, just, effective manner with growing population flows through the Americas.”
Anger grew outside the detention facility, with relatives chanting demands for justice near a makeshift shrine dedicated to the victims.
“Every migrant has the right to be safe, to be protected,” said Fran Martin Perez, from Venezuela.
“Because we’re not criminals,” he added.
Amnesty International said the fire was “a consequence of the restrictive and cruel immigration policies” of Mexico and the United States.
“These devastating events lay bare a truly inhumane system of immigration enforcement. How is it possible that the Mexican authorities left human beings locked up with no way to escape the fire?” said the rights group’s Americas director, Erika Guevara-Rosas.