Speed Reads

tragedy at the border

Blaze kills 39 at migrant detention center in Mexico

At least 39 people were killed in a fire that broke out late Monday at a migrant detention facility in the northern Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez, in what The Washington Post called "one of the deadliest tragedies in years involving foreigners crossing Mexico to reach the United States." 

The fire started shortly before 10 p.m., the National Immigration Institute (INM) said in a statement. At least 68 men from Central and South America stayed at the center in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, the institute stated. The facility hosts migrants waiting for their requests for asylum in the U.S. to be processed. INM officials say that at least 29 migrants were wounded in the blaze, in addition to the 39 confirmed dead. 

Most of the victims were Central American migrants, although some were Venezuelan, said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. 

The INM said it "energetically rejects the acts that led to this tragedy" without elaborating on what those acts were. The fire was allegedly set by migrants who were told they were going to be deported, the president said at a press conference. "In the door of the shelter, they put some mattresses and set them on fire," López Obrador said. "They never imagined that would cause this tragedy."

"Tensions between authorities and migrants had apparently been running high in recent weeks in Ciudad Juarez," The Associated Press explains, where shelters for migrants awaiting asylum have become overcrowded. The level of frustration in Ciudad Juárez was evident "when hundreds of mostly Venezuelan migrants acting on false rumors that the United States would allow them to enter the country tried to force their way across one of the international bridges to El Paso."