By Daina Beth Solomon and Raúl Cortes
MEXICO CITY (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Five people have been arrested for alleged roles in the deaths of 39 people after a fire at a Mexican migrant detention center this week, authorities said Thursday, as pressure mounts to figure out why the victims looked be left in their cells as the smoke filled area.
As part of the murder investigation, Sara Irene Herrerias, head of the human rights unit at the attorney general’s office, said warrants had been issued for three agents of the government’s National Migration Institute (NMI) , two private security officers and the person accused of setting the fire.
He did not clarify which of the six arrest warrants was still pending.
Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodriguez said the city’s private security group, CAMSA SA de CV, is responsible for the center’s security.
CAMSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Several irregularities were found when investigators looked into CAMSA, Rodriguez said, adding that the government has asked the migration institution to withdraw its contract with the company. He said investigators were looking into how members of the private security company were trained.
Federal agents will take over security at migrant centers in the state of Chihuahua, where the center is located, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said there has been a lack of oversight by government officials in various areas, including those who have approved contracts “without checking what they really are.”
A complaint filed Wednesday with federal prosecutors, seen by RockedBuzz via Reuters, alleges that the state’s top immigration official, Salvador Gonzalez, had been alerted to the fire and ordered the migrants not to be released.
Jorge Vazquez, the lawyer who filed the complaint, told RockedBuzz via Reuters the information came from his clients who knew what happened. He refused to give the names of his clients, saying he would endanger them.
Gonzalez told RockedBuzz via Reuters the allegations were false. He said he had not ordered the migrants to remain locked up and added that he did not communicate directly with the managers of the detention centres.
A short video circulating on social media — which appears to be security footage from inside the center during the fire — showed men kicking in the bars of a closed door as their cell filled with smoke.
Three uniformed people can be seen walking past without attempting to open the door. Investigators said the video is part of the probe.
Authorities said they believed the fire, which killed male immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela and Colombia, was started by migrants who set fire to mattresses as a form of protest.
The fire is one of the deadliest migrant incidents in recent years.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Raul Cortes; Screenplay by Kylie Madry; Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer, Brendan O’Boyle, David Gregorio and Gerry Doyle)