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Migrants stage mass escape from Mexican facility

People being kept inside the center had reported "bad conditions," one relative said.
Image: Policemen outside the Siglo XXI immigrant detention center in Tapachula
Police officers outside the Siglo XXI immigrant detention in Tapachula, Mexico, on Thusday.Jose Torres / Reuters

TAPACHULA, Mexico — At least 1,300 mainly Cuban migrants fled on foot from an immigration detention center on Mexico's southern border Thursday in the largest mass escape in recent memory.

The National Immigration Institute said 700 of the Cubans had returned voluntarily, but 600 were still on the loose.

The institute said agents inside the compound weren't armed and "there was no confrontation."

Federal police with riot shields later streamed inside to control the situation, as a crowd of angry Cubans whose relatives were being held at the facility gathered outside.

The Cubans claimed their relatives reported overcrowding and unsanitary conditions at the facility.

"My wife and child have been in there for 27 days in bad conditions," said Usmoni Velazquez Vallejo, as he waited outside for news. "There is overcrowding, insufficient food and there isn't even medicine for them."

The escape was embarrassing for the government as it came on the same day Mexico's top human rights official toured the facility.