Mexico returns bodies of 23 migrants to Guatemala, El Salvador after fire

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Apr 11 (EFE).- A Mexican air force jet on Tuesday returned to their homelands the bodies of 23 Guatemalan and Salvadoran migrants who died in a fire two weeks ago at an immigration station in Ciudad Juarez.

Hearses bearing the bodies departed from a funeral home in the northern border city in a security operation and later arrived at Abraham Gonzalez International Airport where they were placed aboard the aircraft.

The bodies of 17 of the 19 Guatemalans and six of the seven Salvadorans who died in the fire at the National Immigration Institute (INM) center were sent back to Guatemala and El Salvador, respectively.

Although the arrival of Guatemalan Foreign Minister Mario Bucaro to Ciudad Juarez had been announced, the minister did not participate in any public event.

“#CancillerGT (Foreign Minister of Guatemala) is heading up the transfer of the mortal remains of the 17 citizens who died in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, prior to their repatriation,” Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry announced on Twitter without specifying Bucaro’s whereabouts.

The return of the bodies comes after a fire broke out on the night of March 27 at an INM center in Ciudad Juarez, where a total of 40 Honduran, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Colombian and Venezuelan migrants died.

The Guatemalan government has acknowledged the deaths of 19 of its citizens although so far only 17 of the bodies have been sent back to the Central American country.

Besides the dead, 27 people were injured in the fire.

Almost 70 migrants were being housed and processed at the immigration center in preparation for their deportation by Mexico.

“Up to now, 31 bodies of people who perished in the fire have been repatriated,” the INM said in a statement.

On April 4, a federal judge placed five people arrested for their alleged responsibility in the tragedy on trial.

The defendants are accused of “the crimes of homicide and bodily injury, both intentional.”

Named as the alleged material authors – both by commission and omission – are immigration agents Daniel Goray, Rodolfo Collazo, Gloria Ramos and private security guard Alan Pascual.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan migrant Jaison Catari also has been charged with being the material author of the fire and is facing trial on the same counts.

The incident has sparked international criticism of the government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in particular by El Salvador, which has denounced what it calls a “state crime” and has demanded the resignation of those responsible for implementing Mexico’s immigration policies.

According to Mexican civil organizations, 2022 was the most tragic year for undocumented migrants in Mexico with some 900 of them dying trying to cross the country and reach the United States.

The region is experiencing a record flow of migrants, with 2.76 million undocumented persons having been detained on the US border with Mexico so far during Fiscal Year 2022, which began on Oct. 1, 2022, and will end on Sept. 30, 2023.



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