Fire deaths at a migrant center in Mexico are being investigated as homicides; arrest warrants imminent: officials
Death of at least 39 migrants in one Mexican Center for Migrants south of the US border, murders are under investigation and arrest warrants are expected on Thursday.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Mexican Security Minister Rosa Isela Rodriguez said prosecutors had identified eight people suspected of involvement in a death at a migrant center in the city of Ciudad Juarez, less than eight miles from the Rio Grande. south of El Paso, Texas.
Rodriguez said they included two Mexican federal agents, a Chihuahua immigration officer and five employees of a private security firm, Reuters reported.
“It is clear that a serious crime is taking place,” Rodriguez reportedly said. “These were human lives. It’s unforgivable.”
MEXICAN IMMIGRATION SECURITY DID NOT RELEASE MIGRANTS WHEN THERE WAS A DEATH FIRE, SHOWS VIDEO
In a video shared on social media, one inmate in a cell is seen kicking the bars of a grate as the flames intensify. The uniformed guards appeared to have walked out of the fire without helping the detainees to get out. Officials said part of the investigation is checking whether a key was available to open the cell, or if there was another way to break the lock.
“Who didn’t let these people out? It is clear that a serious crime has taken place,” Rodriguez said, adding that surveillance footage is part of the investigation. “They couldn’t open the gate.”
At the same event, Sara Irene Herrerias, head of human rights at Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, said no arrests had yet been made, but warrants were expected to be issued on Wednesday night and Thursday, Reuters reported.
Herrerias said the investigation was open “to murder and damage to property,” although other possible offenses are being weighed, according to The Guardian.
“None of the government employees or private security guards took any action to open the door to the migrants inside,” she told reporters.
Rodriguez said migrants held at the facility were detained on the streets earlier in the day as neighbors complained about begging, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised that “there will be no impunity”. over tragedy.
“There is no intention to hide what happened and no intention to protect anyone,” López Obrador told reporters, according to the Times. “In our government, we do not tolerate human rights violations or impunity.”
FIRE IN MEXICAN MIGRANTS FACILITY IN WHICH KILLED 38 STARTED PROTEST AGAINST DEPORTATION, PRESIDENT SAYS
López Obrador said some of the migrants held at the center set the fire themselves in protest. over pending deportations. “They placed mats at the door of the orphanage and set fire to them in protest and did not expect this to cause this terrible tragedy,” he said on Tuesday, according to Agence France-Presse.
However, the Mexican president insisted that those responsible for “this painful tragedy will be punished in accordance with the law.”
The victims were all men and mostly from Guatemala, but the other dead were from Honduras, Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador, according to Mexican authorities. The Times said the death toll rose from 28 to 39 on Wednesday, while others remain hospitalized, including 17 in critical condition, nine of whom are assessed as “delicate” and two as stable.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres demanded a “thorough investigation”.
Tensions between authorities and migrants in Ciudad Juarez, where shelters are overflowing with people waiting to cross the border or complete the asylum process, have risen sharply in recent weeks, according to the Associated Press.
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The high level of frustration in Ciudad Juarez was evident earlier this month when hundreds of Venezuelan migrants attempted to break through one of El Paso’s international bridges, acting on false rumors that the United States would allow them to enter the country. The US authorities blocked their attempts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.