Church condemns ill-treatment of migrants
(LWI) – As a “predicted tragedy”, Elisa Pérez Trejo, coordinator of the Pastoral de Migrantes of the Mexican Lutheran Church (ILM), described the fire in a Center for Migrants (Centro de Seguridad) in Ciudad Juárez at the border between Mexico and the USA. At least 40 people died, and about 30 were seriously injured in the incident on 27 March.
At the center in Ciudad Juárez, undocumented migrants – mainly from Central America, Venezuela, Cuba, and Haiti – are detained. The migration centers in Mexico are part of the National Migration Institute (INM) facilities. Previously, they have been harshly criticized by human rights organizations due to the precarious conditions in which migrants are held inside, the lack of adequate medical attention and the violation of their rights.
In an official statement, the ILM and other organizations reinforce the criticism it had previously expressed in September 2022 after church representatives had visited the center.
“When we entered, it was obvious that everything had been cleaned for the occasion because there was a strong smell of chlorine and paint,” said Pérez Trejo. They first saw the rooms, which actually are cells equipped with bars to keep the migrants locked up. “The conditions of confinement of the women were terrible because they did not have even their most basic needs covered or having the opportunity to go to the bathroom regularly,” she said.
Another thing attracting attention was that, although it is prohibited to detain children, there were children’s belongings and items in the center, but no boys or girls were to be seen.
Mexico has signed many international treaties on the protection of migrants. But this is not enough to prevent tragedies like the one in Ciudad Juárez.
Elisa Pérez Trejo, coordinator of the Pastoral de Migrantes of the Mexican Lutheran Church
The men’s rooms are at the end of very narrow corridors and in the middle are the staff offices. “There are no evacuation areas, and there was no system in place for the locked-up migrants to get out and save themselves in case of fire,” said Pérez Trejo.
“Migration centers have no reason to detain people,” she added. “They have become detention centers; that is illegal. In Mexico, all people who enter the country, whether they have papers or not, have the right to cross the country without being detained.” Also, Pérez Trejo recalled, “Mexico has signed many international treaties on the protection of migrants.” However, “this is not enough to prevent tragedies like the one in Ciudad Juárez. It is sad to say, but I think this was a tragedy to be expected.”