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At least 37 people have been killed after a fire erupted at a migrant facility near the US-Mexico border. Volunteer rescue workers claimed as many as 40 people died in the fire as they reported 67 had been injured. The fire was reported to have started at the Instituto Nacional de Migration in Ciudad Juarez, seven miles south of El Paso, Texas.
Sources close to the Government of the state of Chihuahua told the local press the blaze was caused by a mattress catching fire.
The victims are believed to have been migrants detained at the federal processing centre.
The source told Spanish newspaper El Pais that at least 37 people died in the fire, branding the incited as “a tragedy.” They also reported at least 10 people were gravely injured.
Agents from the Institute had detained more than 70 people in the centre on Monday for alleged disturbances on public roads.
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The source claimed the migrants had “set fire to the mattresses as a sign of protest and the fire spread.”
The Attorney General has reportedly taken charge of the investigation into the deadly blaze.
Redes Sociales reporter Alfredo Alvarez said firefighters struggled to access the area and reported the detention centre was “overcrowded.”
He wrote on Twitter: “Chihuahua government confirms 37 migrant deaths in immigration station of #CiudadJuarez, more than 20 injured.
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“Fire engines did not have access, the place was overcrowded.”
Ciudad Juarez has been under pressure for months as an unprecedented number of people have been travelling to the area in hope of crossing the border into the United States.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) the influx of arrivals increased by eight percent in 2022, with US border agents detaining 252,487 people in December – an estimated 8,000 per day.
The US Border Patrol said it encountered migrants 128,877 times trying to cross the border in February between the legal ports of entry, the lowest monthly number since February 2021.
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Agents detained migrants more than 2.5 million times at the southern border in 2022, including more than 250,000 in December, the highest on record.
While Texas and Florida officials ballyhoo their border-tightening efforts, no major immigration legislation has emerged this year in Arizona, where some of the nation’s toughest laws targeting immigrants have been devised.
Arizona’s “show me your papers” law, passed in 2010, required law enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of a person stopped or arrested if the officers suspected the person may be in the US unlawfully, a practice detractors said encouraged racial profiling.
New Mexico, which also shares a border with Mexico, has since 2021 steadily removed barriers for migrants without legal status to access public benefits, student financial aid and licensure in credentialed professions.
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