Mexico’s president blames migrants for the fire that killed 39

By March 29, 2023

Mexico City, Mexico — Following Monday’s fire at a migration detention facility in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, a border city in Mexico’s northwest, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador blamed detained migrants for causing the blaze that left 39 people dead and 29 injured. 

During his routine press conference on Tuesday, López Obrador said the fire was “very unfortunate and very sad” before presuming that the incident was deliberately provoked by asylum seekers. 

“This had to do with a protest that they started, we suppose after they found out that they were going to be deported, mobilized, and as a protest at the door of the shelter, they put mattresses from the shelter, and they set fire to them, and they did not imagine that this was going to cause this terrible misfortune,” said López Obrador. 

Mexico’s Migration Institute (INM) has issued a legal complaint with the federal prosecution and Mexico’s Human Rights Commission to pursue a formal investigation of the incident. 

Through a press release, INM announced they would follow with the investigation. 

“This authority informs that a complaint was filed with the corresponding authorities so that what happened can be investigated and, where appropriate, proceed accordingly.

In the same way, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) was given a hearing to intervene in legal proceedings and to safeguard foreigners,” read the statement. 

While López Obrador and his administration have pinned the blame on the migrants held at the detention facility, recent videos of the fire shared on social media show migration officers leaving migrants incarcerated after the fire started.  

Mexico has agreed to a series of policies issued by the United States government to hamper an influx of migrants from the global south into North America. From the “remain in Mexico policy” allegedly accepted in secret by the Mexican government, to holding migrants expelled by the U.S. under title 42, Mexico has behaved as a migratory wall for the U.S. 

Relying on the military, the Mexican government under López Obrador has pushed to detain migrants in the country, forcing them further into the hands of criminal groups and migrant smugglers. And cases have also been reported of extortion and harassment by the military. 

Read more: Venezuelan migrants face violence, political hostility on journey through Mexico to US

According to INM, there were 68 migrants detained in the facilities, most of them from Central America. The nationalities reported inside the detention center were 28 Guatemalans; 13 Hondurans; 12 Salvadorans; 12 Venezuelans; one from Colombia, and one from Ecuador. 

The injured were transported to four local hospitals, reportedly in a “severe and delicate state.”  

Mexican migration authorities have established a line of communication with consular officers from different countries to implement actions that allow the complete identification of the deceased.