Friday, June 21, 2024

INM crisis protocol told contractors to ‘protect property’ not migrants

Security guards at a Ciudad Juárez detention center where 40 migrants died in a fire on March 27 were told to protect property but not detainees in an emergency, a document has revealed.

The orders were contained in a contract given by the National Institute of Migration (INM) to the security company Camsa SA de CV, to manage the Ciudad Juárez detention center in Chihuahua.

Deadly fire at migrant detention center in Juarez, Mexico
The fire left 40 migrants dead. (Juan Ortega Solís/Cuartoscuro)

“In case of emergency (earthquake, fire, flood, bomb threat) [contractors] must protect the buildings from the outside to avoid theft of goods,” the document says.

Both INM officials and privately contracted security were employed at the center.

Although the document outlines general security protocols, such as keeping emergency exits clear, it does not state that saving the lives of detainees or personnel should take priority in an emergency. Rather, it emphasizes daily protocols to prevent migrants from escaping.

“Security elements should remain in constant rotation between the different areas… they will carry out dynamic surveillance to safeguard order and deter any escape attempt,” it says.

Francisco Garduño head of the National Migration Institute in Mexico
Francisco Garduño is still the national head of the National Migration Institute, but he is scheduled to be formally charged with failure to execute his duties by a federal judge on April 21, the federal Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday. (File photo/Cuartoscuro)

The contract, worth up to 190 million pesos (US $10.6 million), was signed by INM officials Jesús Manuel de la O Pacheco and  Abraham Ezequiel Zurita Capdepont as well as Camsa administrator David Vicente Salazar Gazca. 

Since the fire, the contract has come under criticism, including from President López Obrador, for being awarded without any public bidding. It also contains a confidentiality agreement.

The deadly fire broke out on the night of March 27. Thirty-nine migrants – from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela – were killed in the blaze. Another died in hospital.

A video that circulated on social media soon after the fire shows a security guard and an INM agent appearing to evacuate the building without unlocking the door to the section where the migrants were held, even as it filled with smoke and flames.

Five people were later arrested, including three immigration agents, one security guard, and a Venezuelan migrant accused of starting the blaze in protest at being told of his and other migrants’ impending deportation.

On Tuesday, the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) announced that it intends to file charges against INM director Francisco Garduño and the INM’s commissioner in Chihuahua, Antonio González Guerrero, for failing in their duty to supervise and protect those under their control.

Aftermath of fire at INM detention facility in Ciudad Juárez.
Since the fire, the contract has come under criticism, including from President López Obrador, because it was awarded without any public bidding process. It also contains a confidentiality agreement.

On Thursday, the FGR announced that Garduño and other INM employees face a court hearing before a federal judge in which they will be formally charged.

On Wednesday, former Michoacán governor Silvano Aureoles ratified a criminal complaint he filed in March against Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and Interior Minister Adán Augusto López for their alleged role in allowing the tragedy to occur.

“[The migrants] were killed by the government of Mexico,” Aureoles claimed. “The state killed them, they had them locked up, they had them imprisoned with illegal procedures and a series of omissions and failures, mistreatment of people whose only crime was trying to cross the United States border.”

“The killing of migrants must not go unpunished,” he said.

With reports from El Universal and El Financiero

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