BBC: Children detained in “heartbreaking” conditions in US migrant camp; sexual abuse; COVID; Lice

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At a US border detention centre in the Texan desert, migrant children have been living in alarming conditions – where disease is rampant, food can be dangerous and there are reports of sexual abuse, an investigation by the BBC has found through interviews with staff and children.

In recent months, the US has seen a massive rise in migrants and asylum seekers from Central America. Violence, natural disasters and pandemic-related economic strife are some of the reasons behind the influx, experts say.  BBC

What are the camp conditions?

The Fort Bliss camp consists of at least 12 tents, some of which house hundreds of children at a time. The children spend most of their day in the tents, getting out for an hour or two of recreation, or to line up with hundreds of others for a meal.

Staff told the BBC the food was mostly edible, but a 15-year-old who has now been released said he was fed uncooked meat. “Sometimes the chicken had blood, the meat very red. We couldn’t stand our hunger and we ate it, but we got sick from it.”

A number of tents have also been set up just to accommodate the large numbers of sick children – the children have nicknamed it ‘Covid city’.

“Hundreds of children have tested positive for Covid,” said one employee who asked to remain anonymous because staff are banned from speaking about the camp. 

In addition to Covid, outbreaks of the flu and strep throat have also been reported since the camp opened in late March.

And some children in need of urgent medical attention have been neglected.

Lice

“Lice has been rampant,” an employee told the BBC. “And one of the major shortages has been lice kits.” Staff said a tent of around 800 girls was locked down last month because of lice.

Sexual abuse

There are reports of staff sexually abusing children at the Fort Bliss camp. At a camp training session, secretly recorded by a staff member and shared with the BBC, an employee voiced concern.

“We have already caught staff with minors inappropriately,” she said.

Another employee told the BBC that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had spoken to staff about a rape.