US watchdog issues warning about 'dangerous overcrowding' at migrant detention facilities

The Department of Homeland watchdog has issued a stark warning about "dangerous overcrowding" at Border Patrol facilities in South Texas.

A strongly worded report compiled by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General examines the terrible conditions migrants face at facilities along the US-Mexico border.

Inspectors visited five detention centres and ports of entry in the Rio Grande Valley where they found migrants living in squalid conditions, packed into cells with standing room only and sleeping on the floor.

Some migrants had been kept in detention for more than a month and were given wet wipes, as they did not have access to showers.

Inspectors observed 51 women being held in a cell designed to hold 40 children. Credit: Department of Homeland Security/Office of Inspector General

"We are concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk to the health and safety of DHS agents and officers, and to those detained," the report said.

Children did not have basic hygiene and laundry facilities and at two centres children did not have access to hot meals until the week inspectors arrived, instead they were fed sandwiches and snacks.

Images in the report show migrants lying side by side on the floor wrapped in aluminum blankets, behind fences and one picture showed 88 migrants packed into a cell designed for 41.

In another photograph, 51 women were being held in a room meant to hold 40 children.

Women sleeping on the floor at a Border Patrol facility in Weslaco, Texas. Credit: Department of Homeland Security/Office of Inspector General

Inspectors wrote in the report: "We ended our site visit at one Border Patrol facility early because our presence was agitating an already difficult situation.

"Specifically when detainees observed us, they banged on the cell windows, shouted, pressed notes to the window with their time in custody, and gestured to evidence of their time in custody (e.g., beards)."

According to NBC correspondent Gadi Schwartz, one migrant’s sign appears to say “HELP 40 day here."

The inspectors quote one facility's senior manager calling the conditions "a ticking time bomb".

One migrant holds up a sign which appears to say 'Help 40 day here'. Credit: Department of Homeland Security/Office of Inspector General

The report states there had been number of 'security incidents', according to Border Patrol management.

Inspectors note one incident in which detainees clogged toilets with blankets and socks so they could be released from their cells for maintenance.

The report comes just days after a photo of a father and daughter who drowned as they tried to cross the Rio Grande emerged.

The picture showed the body of Oscar Martinez and his daughter, Valeria, who still had her arms wrapped around her father, as they tried to travel from El Savador to the US illegally last month.

Detainees were crammed into cells and held behind wire fences at some detention centres. Credit: Department of Homeland Security/Office of Inspector General

President Donald Trump's administration has come under fire for his hard-line immigration policies and for a policy which sees children separated from their parents.

He has a 'zero tolerance' stance on illegal immigration and vowed that America would not become a 'migrant camp.'

Lawmakers have tried pressuring the administration to release migrant families seeking asylum.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: "The Inspector General’s report provides a shocking window into the dangerous and dehumanizing conditions that the Trump Administration is inflicting on children and families at the border."