JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The Mexican government says it will pay $8.2 million to the families of 40 migrants who died in a fire at a Juarez immigration facility last March.
Each family will get just under $205,000, though the timing of the payments was not disclosed.
“This was a painful and regrettable incident but also represents a crucial (opportunity) to further the processes that guarantee the rights and the safety of persons on the move, and to avoid further incidents,” the National Migration Institute (INM) said in a statement this week.
The March 27 fire at the INM station in Juarez west of the Stanton Street international bridge claimed the lives of 40 South and Central American migrants and left more than two dozen others with severe burns, damaged lungs from smoke inhalation and other injuries.
An investigation that included the review of security camera footage concluded that two Venezuelan migrants who wanted to be let out started the fire during a protest. Smoke quickly spread throughout the building while security guards and INM agents left without opening the cell door where all the male migrants were held, the investigation concluded.
One migrant and several security guards and INM officials remain in jail in connection with the fire, while INM national director Francisco Garduno is facing administrative charges.
The Mexican government paid for the medical care of survivors, transportation, food and lodging of relatives who came to see those in hospitals or arrange for repatriation of the bodies. In addition, the institute requested compensation for the victims and on July 18 the Executive Commission for Victims’ Assistance authorized the $8.2 million disbursement, the INM statement said.
The agency said it has made changes to migrant care since the fire and now determines within 36 hours if a migrant is to be released or detained pending deportation.
The INM, which previously had 54 working holding stations, is now operating only 17 of those in addition to three detention centers “without locked doors” that can hold up to 3,700 migrants. Improvements to holding facilities include having sufficient fire extinguishers in working order, installing emergency exits and keeping the doors of holding cells open, whenever possible.
Security camera video showed Mexican officials bringing into the building a fire extinguisher after the one inside the burning facility didn’t work. The investigation revealed the extinguishers inside the facility did not work.