"No one opened the door for them in front of the fire": in Ciudad Juárez they reveal details of the investigation into the death of migrants in a detention center

March 30, 2023, 6:58 AM

March 30, 2023, 6:58 AM

A moment captured on video inside the migrant center


They left them helpless and did not help them escape the fire.

The Mexican authorities revealed this Wednesday part of their investigation into the death of 39 migrants who were locked up last Monday in a detention center that caught fire in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, in the north of the country.

The incident left another 27 people injured, 16 in serious condition.

“None of the public servants, nor the private security police, carried out any action to open the door to the migrants who were inside with the fire“, alleged in a press conference the special prosecutor for Human Rights of the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic, Sara Irene Herrerías.

In her speech, the official reported that as part of the investigation they are analyzing a video from security cameras that was broadcast on the internet, in which it can be seen how some officials inside the detention center did not help those who were exposed to fire. and smoke started in the migrant shelter area.

The Secretary of Public Security and Federal Citizen Protection, Rosa Icela Rodríguez, assured that there will be no impunity and condemned “the bad performance of public servants who they did not adhere to the protocols for the protection of life and civil protection protocols”.

“The decision of, instead of saving lives, not being able to save a life is something that will be in the investigations: who did not allow these people to leave? Obviously there is a serious crime,” said Rodríguez.

“Yes unworthy, yes it bothers and it is a feeling not only of impotence, but of courage [enojo]… They are human lives and it is unforgivable,” he added.

The secretary Rodríguez and the prosecutor Herrerías

Government of Mexico
Secretary Rodríguez and prosecutor Herrerías presented advances in the investigation.

Until now they have been identified eight probable perpetrators: two federal agents, a state immigration agent and five guards from an auxiliary private security company hired by the immigration authorities.

In addition, four arrest warrants were requested for the crime of homicide against “the person responsible for starting the fire, public servants and guards from a private company,” said prosecutor Herrerías.

The person responsible for the fire, as reported in the same press conference, was presumably one of the migrants.

the first investigations

According to the federal investigation, the fire started around 8:30 p.m. last Monday, when migrants began a protest inside the Provisional Stay of the National Institute of Migration in Ciudad Juárez.

Migrants detained in that border city of Mexico with the US city of El Paso were interned in that compound.

Prosecutor Herrerías explained that, according to testimonies collected, among the migrants “There was a fear that they were going to be deported and that’s why they had been detained. And they were protesting about it.”

Map of the Center of the National Institute of Migration in Mexico


Of the 66 men interned in the center, “a small group of migrants began to destroy and accumulate the mattresses to set them on fire.”

They were all men and were in a detention area guarded by immigration officials and private security agents. There were doors with locks.

As a suspect in starting the fire, Prosecutor Herrerías pointed to a migrantaccording to the testimonies of the victims.

The security video

A video from a security camera inside the Provisional Stay was broadcast through various media outlets and social networks on Tuesday night.

Within 32 seconds, uniformed officials are seen appearing to walk away as fire breaks out in a corner of the compound.

Migrants to the interior unsuccessfully trying to open a barred door as the smoke spreads rapidly.

The BBC checked the stills from the video and found no copy released before Tuesday night, indicating that it is recent.

Alejandra Corona, coordinator of the Jesuit Refugee Service and who knows the facilities, told the BBC that what she saw on the video matches the location of a security camera at the entrance to the men’s holding area.

He explained that the migrant center, located just south of the bridge that connects Ciudad Juárez with the city of El Paso, has offices where migrants are processed, as well as areas where they can be detained.

He described the area behind the bars that can be seen in the footage as “a cell.”

“The door it has always been locked when we have visited [esta área]and even when you want to talk to migrants, they can’t go out, we have to stay outside,” he explained.

“I am not aware of the existence of an emergency exit. As far as I know, the door that can be seen in the video is the only exit,” he explained.

Since the video has no sound, it is not possible to determine what was being said when the fire broke out. It’s also unclear what uniformed personnel do when they’re not on camera.

But at one point, smoke fills the room, making it hard to make out anything beyond the glow of the flames.

“There was smoke everywhere”

The images seem to support the story of a Venezuelan, wife of a survivor of the fire.

Viangly Infante Padrón told reporters in Ciudad Juárez that the agents had left her husband and the other men “locked behind bars” as they fled.

A Venezuelan migrant cries as she lies in an ambulance near the Ciudad Juárez migrant center.

Vinagly Infante, a Venezuelan migrant, was looking for information on the whereabouts of her husband, who was being held at the disaster center.

“There was smoke everywhere. They let out the women and the [empleados] immigration,” he said. “The men were not let out until the firefighters arrived,” he explained in statements collected by the AP agency.

He claimed that the men had been protesting that they had not been given water while in custody.

At the press conference this Wednesday, the Secretary of Security reported that among the fatalities there were migrants from Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Venezuela.

However, their names have not been released so far and only eight bodies have been fully identified.

Corona told the BBC that raids to detain migrants had become more frequent in Ciudad Juárez: “Anyone who enters Mexico irregularly can be arrested,” he explained.

However, he said, that did not mean that those detained at the facility had committed any crimes.

“Their relatives told us that some had been detained upon landing at the airport, others at the bus terminal and still others on the streets of the city,” Corona said.

A vigil for the victims of Ciudad Juárez

Getty Images

The fire occurred at a time when Mexico faces the growing influx of migrantsmost of which cross Mexico in hopes of reaching the United States.

Many of them have been camped out in US-Mexico border cities for weeks and sometimes months, awaiting the possible lifting ofI Title 42a Washington policy that allows US border officials to deny entry to people “to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.”

The Joe Biden administration promised to remove the policy last year, but the US Supreme Court blocked the attempt in late December and it remains in effect.

Still, many migrants from Central and South America, and even some from Asia and Africa, continue to embark on long journeys to the US border in the hope of gaining entry by seeking asylum.

*Reporting by Vanessa Buschschlüter of BBC News.

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