Europe 1 with AFP 18:41 p.m., March 28, 2023

On Tuesday, the fire at a detention center in Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican city bordering the United States, caused the death of at least 39 migrants. According to the Mexican government, this tragedy was triggered by migrants who feared deportation. Another 29 people were injured.

At least 39 migrants died and 29 others were injured early Tuesday morning in a fire at their detention center in Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican city bordering the United States. A tragedy caused, according to the Mexican government, by migrants who feared deportation. "They put mattresses at the door of the reception center and set it on fire, without imagining that it would cause this terrible misfortune," Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador lamented at his daily press conference. "This is a protest movement that they started, we assume they learned that they were going to be expelled, displaced," he said.

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Migrants from Central America and Venezuela

Although the identities and nationalities of the victims have not yet been released, he said the center was hosting "mainly migrants from Central America and some from Venezuela." While deploring the tragedy, he confirmed the death toll of 39 among migrants announced by the National Institute of Migration (INM), which manages the center. The institute "deplores the death of 39 migrants so far as a result of a fire," it said in a statement, adding that the 29 injured had been taken in serious condition to four hospitals.

He said he had established contacts "with the consular authorities of the various countries to implement the actions authorized by the full identification of deceased migrants".

A site guarded by the military and the National Guard

The fire, unprecedented in facilities for migrants in the country, began shortly before midnight Monday, prompting the mobilization in the early morning Tuesday of firefighters and dozens of ambulances. It started in the area where undocumented foreigners are housed. An AFP journalist saw employees of the forensic service placing bodies in the parking lot of the center before they were taken away for identification. The site was guarded by the military and the National Guard.

Many migrants had been transferred to the centre in recent days after a campaign by local authorities against street vendors, many of whom are foreigners. A rescuer, who requested anonymity due to lack of permission, said about 70 migrants, mostly Venezuelans, were at the site. Viangly, a Venezuelan woman, screams in despair outside the centre where her 27-year-old husband was taken after he was arrested in a raid when, she claims, he holds Mexican papers. "They took him away by ambulance," she said. She knows nothing about her condition and complains that the centre's officials "don't tell you anything".

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7,661 migrants dead or missing on the U.S. route since 2014

Ciudad Juarez, neighboring El Paso, Texas, is one of the border cities from which many undocumented migrants seek to reach the United States to seek asylum. Since 2014, about 7,661 migrants have died or gone missing on their way to the United States, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

On March 13, hundreds of waiting-weary migrants, mostly Venezuelans, tried to cross the border but were barred by U.S. agents. On June 27, 56 migrants were found dead of asphyxiation in an abandoned trailer near San Antonio, Texas. In February, US President Joe Biden took new restrictive measures on the right to asylum for migrants who crossed the border with Mexico, forcing them to apply in transit countries or online.

The measures also provide for the United States' increased use of immediate deportations, accompanied by a five-year ban on re-entry. Some 200,000 people try to cross the border between Mexico and the United States every month. Migrants, anxious to escape poverty or violence in their countries of origin, often take enormous risks to enter the United States.