A portion of a large migrant tent encampment was set ablaze just across the Texas border in Matamoros Wednesday and Thursday, the Associated Press reported.
“The people fled as their tents were burned,” said Gladys Cañas, who runs an advocacy organization for migrants called Ayudandoles A Triunfar.
The roughly two dozen rudimentary shelters set on fire were on the outskirts of a larger encampment comprising about 2,000 people, the outlet explained. The migrants living in the encampment are mostly from Venezuela, Haiti, and Mexico.
Photos of the destroyed tents show a grass and dirt-covered clearing strewn with plastic tarps, cardboard, debris, and a lean-to type structure. A dirt path is shown passing through the area.
No deaths or significant injuries were reported, the outlet reported.
Juan José Rodríguez, director of the state agency Tamaulipas Institute for Migrants, says migrants set the fire because they were frustrated with the mobile app the United States government has deployed to set up appointment times for people to turn up at the border to make asylum claims. The state agency denied knowledge of gangs being responsible for the fire.
One witness, a Mexican woman called “Margerita,” spoke to the outlet on the condition that her last name would not be published. Margerita said that though gangs had threatened migrants illegally wading across the river, the crossings continued. Some such criminals reportedly extort migrants for money in exchange for safe passage through territory they control.
Matamoros, in Mexican state of Tamaulipas, sits on the southern bank of the Rio Grande. Brownsville, Texas sits directly across the river from Matamoros on its northern bank.
A fire at an immigration facility in Ciudad Juárez March 28 left 39 migrants dead and 29 others injured, as TheBlaze reported. Ciudad Juárez is just across the border from El Paso, Texas. In that fire, the migrants detained there reportedly set the fire themselves as a means for protest on learning they would be deported.
Four United States citizens were violently kidnapped in Matamoros March 3, as TheBlaze reported. One of the two South Carolina residents who survived the kidnapping, 34-year-old Latavia Washington McGee, was arrested in a separate incident involving allegedly contributing to the delinquency of a minor by bringing a gun to a kids’ fight, the New York Post reported.
The fire in the encampment at Matamoros comes as officials prepare for a massive influx of migrants due to the ending of Title 42. Title 42, a Trump-administration policy that permitted U.S. authorities to turn back migrants based on the public health emergency brought about by COVID, is slated to end May 11.
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