The International Rescue Committee (IRC) expressed deep concern after the news of the fire at a National Migration Institute detention center, which resulted in at least 39 people dead and others severely injuredin Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. 

Rafael Velásquez, Country Director for the IRC in Mexico said:

“The news of the fire at the migrant detention center in Ciudad Juárez is devastating. This is proof of the extremely urgent need to ensure that there are systems in place to provide safety for people in need of international protection.

“At the IRC, we have constantly warned about the risks that people on the move experience in Mexico, whether they are trying to apply for asylum here or are in transit and trying to find safety in the United States. Families and individuals encounter dangers that span from gender-based violence, to human trafficking and organized crimes. As Mexico receives historic numbers of new asylum claims and the U.S. continues to implement policies that push asylum seekers back into Mexico, humanitarian infrastructure in the country is increasingly strained and more people are stuck in highly vulnerable situations.

“These risks are particularly tangible in cities along the U.S.-Mexico border, such as Ciudad Juárez, which for years have seen increasing numbers of displaced people as new and stricter border policies have been put in place. Currently, our teams at the border are seeing the needs of asylum seekers deepen as they are forced to juggle ensuring their subsistence with the need to wait—sometimes for weeks or months—for the opportunity to get an appointment through the CBP One app to present their cases at a port of entry. 

“The IRC continues calling for global solutions for what is a global challenge: the displacement crisis we are seeing throughout Latin America, including Mexico. These solutions must include measures to protect asylum seekers regardless of their origin and situation. Such measures must include, on one hand, the end of U.S. border policies that bar people’s right to seek asylum, but also the need for enough support and funding from the international community to strengthen the asylum and protection systems along Mexico’s migration corridors.”

The IRC’s response in Mexico

In 2019, the IRC launched operations in Mexico to respond to humanitarian needs of asylum seekers stuck at the U.S. border as a consequence of policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and Title 42. Since then, the IRC has expanded to respond along the main migration corridors in Mexico: from the southern to the northern borders and along the routes through the country. 

Currently, the IRC’s programs offer a timely and comprehensive response to the most urgent needs of people on the move, including: economic recovery and development; mental health and psychosocial support; child protection; multipurpose cash assistance to meet people’s basic needs; prevention and response to gender-based violence; access to critical information through InfoDigna, a multi-channel information platform; as well as identifying needs and referring cases to local service providers. Additionally, the IRC is supporting local integration efforts by providing cultural orientation to individuals who have chosen to stay in Mexico.