Dozens die in Mexican migrant centre fire

 At least 39 people have died in a fire at a migrant processing centre in Mexico that officials say started during a protest against deportations.

Many of the victims are thought to be Venezuelans trying to reach the US.

The fire at the centre in Ciudad Juárez broke out shortly before 22:00 local time (04:00 GMT). The Mexican city, located across the Rio Grande river from El Paso, Texas, has seen an influx of people in recent weeks.

Many have been heading to the US border in expectation of an end to Title 42, a pandemic-era policy which gives the US government the power to quickly expel migrants trying to cross its border.

Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said migrants had set mattresses ablaze.

“It was related to a protest they started, we think, when they learned that they’d be deported,” the presi­dent said, adding that the migrants had set alight mattresses.

“They didn’t think that would cause this terrible tragedy,” he added. Pho­tos from the scene show body bags lined up on the pavement outside.

Local media say the migrants inside the building where the blaze happened had been picked up by the authorities on Monday and taken to the centre. The facility is located near the Stanton-Lerdo Bridge, which links Mexico and the US.

Sixty-eight men from Central and South America were inside the centre run by Mexico’s National Migra­tion Institute (INM) when the fire happened.

Title 42, which allows US border officials to deny individuals’ entry into the US “to prevent the spread of communicable disease”, was first implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Biden Administration has announced its intention to end the use of the Trump-era policy but for now it remains in place.

Since the announcement, the num­ber of migrants in Ciudad Juárez awaiting the possible lifting of the restrictions has swelled. Hundreds of migrants tried to rush into the Unit­ed States from Mexico on Sunday.

The sudden crush prompted opponents of President Joe Biden to call for better border security. The group of mostly Venezuelan nationals attempted to cross a bridge connecting Ciudad Juarez with El Paso, Texas. —BBC

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