Advocates reported that nearly 24 makeshift shelters, which were serving as temporary accommodation for migrants in Mexico, located in close proximity to the U.S. border, were set ablaze this week, causing people to flee and resulting in the destruction of their possessions.
The incidents took place on Wednesday and Thursday at a campsite in the city of Matamoros, which is situated just outside Brownsville, Texas, and is home to approximately 2,000 individuals.
The majority of the migrants are from Venezuela, Haiti, and Mexico, and they have fled their countries due to poverty and violence, with the hopes of crossing into the U.S.
Margarita, a Mexican woman staying at the camp, said she saw some people from Venezuela screaming during Thursday’s fire. “They had their children with them and a few other things they had a chance to get,” she said.
It’s still unclear what caused the fire, but an advocate for migrants said the tents were doused with gasoline.
“The people fled as their tents were burned,” said Gladys Cañas, who runs the group Ayudandoles A Triunfar (Helping Them Succeed).
The organization extends assistance to migrants who are presently waiting across the U.S. border, residing in makeshift camps, enduring freezing temperatures and lacking adequate sustenance, all while hoping to apply for asylum.
“What they’re saying as part of their testimony is that they were told to leave from there,” Cañas said.
Advocates have stated that around 25 tents were set on fire in a desolate section of the camp, although there have been no accounts of fatalities or grave injuries.
In the inferno, some migrants were left with nothing, losing even their meager possessions such as identification papers and garments.
Although the origins of the blazes remain unclear, Margarita noted that criminal gangs often intimidate migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. and extort money from them to traverse through their turf.
rephrase: A U.S. government official suggested the incidents might have been started by some migrants, frustrated by the long wait in Mexico. Title 42, a Trump-era policy that has allowed the federal government to turn away asylum seekers for the past three years — under the premise of increased COVID-19 precautions — is set to end on May 11.