Arrests made in deadly fire at Mexico detention centre

An altar is seen outside the immigration detention center where 39 migrants died during a fire in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. PHOTO: AFP

MEXICO CITY - Five people have been arrested for alleged roles in the deaths of 39 people at a Mexican migrant detention centre this week after a fire broke out, the authorities said on Thursday.

Six warrants were issued against three immigration institute officers, two private security officers and the person who allegedly started the fire, said Ms Sara Irene Herrerias, the head of the Attorney-General Office’s human rights unit, without clarifying which arrest was pending.

A private security company, Grupo de Seguridad Privada Camsa, was responsible for handling security matters at the centre in the northern border city of Juarez, said Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodriguez.

A number of irregularities were found when the authorities began looking into the company on Wednesday, Ms Rodriguez said, adding that the government had asked Mexico’s immigration institute to withdraw its contract with the company.

The company was contracted to have hundreds of employees working across 23 states, but reported having just four employees, Ms Rodriguez said.

Federal agents will take over security in the state of Chihuahua, where the centre is located, she added.

Ms Rodriguez said the company’s failure to comply with its contract came out of failures by public servants, including in the Security Ministry.

Ms Herrerias declined to comment on whether executives of the private security company would be arrested.

Ms Rodriguez had said on Wednesday that prosecutors were investigating eight people who could be involved in the incident, including federal and state agents.

Video of the alleged incident, which Ms Rodriguez made reference to, shows men kicking on the bars of a locked cell as it fills with smoke, and several people in uniform walking past without attempting to open the door.

The authorities have said they believe the fire, which killed male immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela and Colombia, was started by migrants setting mattresses on fire as a form of protest.

The fire is one of the deadliest migrant incidents in recent years.

Asked whether Mexico would change the length migrants were held in detention centres, Ms Rodriguez said the authorities “were looking at the issue”. REUTERS

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.