An AFP journalist saw firemen and rescuers placing several bodies covered with blankets in the parking lot of the National Migration Institute (INM) facility in Ciudad Juarez.
MEXICO CITY: At least 39 migrants died in a fire that broke out at an immigration detention centre in a Mexican city on the US border, the Mexican government said Tuesday.
“The National Migration Institute (INM) of the Interior Ministry regrets the deaths — so far — of 39 foreign migrants, caused by a fire,” a statement said.
An AFP journalist saw firemen and rescuers placing several bodies covered with blankets in the parking lot of the INM facility in Ciudad Juarez.
INM press personnel reached by AFP confirmed the fire, but declined to specify the number of victims.
Local media, citing unnamed sources, estimated that there were dozens of deaths.
A rescuer who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press explained that there were about 70 migrants, mostly Venezuelans, at the site.
Vinagly, a Venezuelan woman, stood outside the immigration centre, desperate for information about her 27-year-old husband who had been detained there.
“He was taken away in an ambulance,” she told AFP, adding that her husband had documents allowing him to remain in Mexico.
“They (immigration officials) don’t tell you anything. A family member can die and they don’t tell you he’s dead,” Vinagly said.
Ciudad Juarez, which neighbours El Paso, Texas, is one of the border towns where numerous undocumented migrants seeking refuge in the United States remain stranded.
The US administration of President Joe Biden has been hoping to stem the record tide of migrants and asylum seekers undertaking often dangerous journeys organized by human smugglers to get to the United States.
In February, Biden proposed new restrictions on asylum seekers, hoping to stifle the rush of migrants to the southern border when Covid-related controls are lifted.
The new rules say migrants who arrive at the border and simply cross into the United States will no longer be eligible for asylum.
Instead, they must apply first for asylum in one of the countries they pass through to get to the US border, or apply online via a US government app.
The new measures came as Biden was facing accusations from Republicans of having lost control of the border.
About 200,000 people try to cross the border from Mexico to the United States each month.
Most are from Central and South America, and cite poverty and violence back home in requesting asylum.
A recent report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) states that since 2014, some 7,661 migrants have died or disappeared en route to the United States, while 988 perished in accidents or while travelling in subhuman conditions.