First photos emerge from migrant detention centres at US-Mexico border

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The first photos of children at a US migration detention centre emerged on Monday, showing them sleeping on mats under foil blankets and separated into groups by plastic partitions.

Axios was the first media outlet to publish a series of photos taken inside the largest Border Patrol detention centre, a sprawling tent facility in the south Texas city of Donna. The photos were released by Representative Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat from the border city of Laredo.

Cuellar said he released the photos because he wanted to draw attention to the extreme challenges that border agents face in watching so many children, sometimes for a week or longer despite the Border Patrol's three-day limit on detaining minors.

Responding to the images, Vice President Kamala Harris described the current situation as “challenging” and said that the Biden administration has to “meet the moment, and there’s a lot of work being put into that”.

Biden has vowed to dismantle his predecessor Donald Trump’s restrictive migration policies, which included the automatic deportation of unaccompanied minors. He has also moved to speed up the reunification of hundreds of separated families.

The White House said Monday it was working on finalising details of how to allow media access to the border facilities, adding that factors under consideration include safeguarding the privacy of minors and coronavirus precautions.

In February alone, the number of child migrants entering the US increased by more than 60 percent compared to the previous month. In all, 15,000 under-age migrants are currently in US custody, of which a third are being held in facilities meant for adults.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)