The tragic event shines a light on the multitude of dangers facing the hundreds of thousands of migrants who set off on perilous journeys to the US each year in the hope of a better life

by Peoples Dispatch

On the night of March 27, at least 39 migrants from various Central and South American countries died after a fire broke out in the dormitory of a migrant center in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico.

fire at ciudad juarez migrant facility

Images released in the aftermath of the fire showed dozens of lifeless bodies covered in silver thermal blankets on the ground outside the facility. Others showed a swarm of ambulances, firefighters and morgue vans. Video footage showed emergency workers attending survivors, gasping for breath.

On Tuesday March 28, the family members of the migrants who died and were injured in the fire protested outside the center, demanding rapid investigation and identification of the deceased so that the bodies could be handed over to relatives.

The National Institute of Migration (INM) lamented the death of migrants. The INM reported that a total of 68 men were staying at the facility, and that the remaining 29 migrants were also injured in the fire. The INM added that they were transferred in serious health condition to four local hospitals for immediate attention.

The INM stated that it had communicated with consular authorities from different countries to coordinate and implement actions to identify the deceased migrants. The institute also expressed its willingness to cooperate in legal investigations in order to clarify the unfortunate incident. The INM added that it would closely monitor the health status of those who are hospitalized and would provide all necessary support to the families of the victims.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), during his daily morning press conference, also lamented the death of 39 migrants. President AMLO reported that the initial investigation suggested that the fire was triggered by migrants living in the shelter during a protest over their anticipated deportations.

“Some migrants set fire to mattresses at the door of the shelter in protest after discovering that they would be deported. They didn’t imagine that it would lead to this terrible tragedy.” said the president.

Ciudad Juárez, bordering El Paso city in the state of Texas, US, is a frequent crossing point for migrants entering the United States. The migrant shelters in the city are full of people waiting for their applications for humanitarian asylum in the US to be processed.

Due to the “Safe-Third Country” immigration agreement, signed with the US under threats of economic sanctions during the government of former President Donald Trump, the Mexican government has been stepping up efforts to contain irregular migration flow to the US. Almost all centers operated by the INM are currently facing overcrowding.

The Mexican authorities have urged the US government several times to commit funds to Central America and southern Mexico to boost development and curb migration as well as implement measures making it easier for migrants to get jobs in the US. However, the Joe Biden government has yet to take concrete measures to address the crisis.

The fire is considered to be one of the deadliest ever to hit a migration center in Mexico. The tragic event has once highlighted the multitude of dangers facing the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees who set off on perilous journeys to the US each year to escape extreme poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunities in their countries in the hope of a better life.

Last month, at least 39 migrants died in a bus accident in Panama after trekking for days through the Central American country’s southern jungles on their way to the US.