‘Not pretty out there:’ 19 asylum-seekers cross border in Manitoba blizzard

Border-crossers face blizzard in Manitoba

EMERSON, Man. — Nineteen asylum-seekers braved a fierce blizzard and whiteout conditions on the open prairie to cross into Canada near the Manitoba border community of Emerson, the area’s reeve said Wednesday.

“It was not pretty out here. Some heavy snow squalls, zero visibility, and these people are walking north straight into the wind,” Greg Janzen said.

“I think they walked almost right through Emerson without knowing they were here.”

Two people were found Tuesday night, Janzen said, and the other 17 were discovered huddled together shortly after sunrise in a carport at an old golf course.

Winds were gusting up to 80 kilometres an hour overnight, which created a wind chill of -28 C. Visibility was so poor, highways in the area were closed until early Wednesday morning.

An ambulance managed to get through, Janzen said, and one person who had an injured arm was tended to. Like others who have walked across the border this year, the refugee claimants were taken by RCMP for processing by border agents.

More than 200 people have walked across open fields and through ditches near Emerson since Jan. 1 — part of a growing number that have also crossed the border near Hemmingford. Que., and other communities.

Many of those making the journey are originally from African nations such as Somalia and Ghana and fear deportation from the United States under toughened immigration laws.

They cross fields and ditches instead of at official border posts because of the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country agreement. Under the agreement, people who have made refugee claims first in the U.S. are turned back at official Canadian entry points, but it does not apply to people who get onto Canadian soil first.

They are allowed to follow normal refugee-claim procedures and are usually released and cared for by a non-profit agency until their case is heard.

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he intends to raise the issue of asylum-seekers when he meets Friday with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

“The first thing we need to do is to make sure that we have a common understanding across the border … about who these people are exactly and how they are making this migration and why,” Goodale said in Ottawa.

“You know that is very, very risky, so one question that I would have is: who organized this movement and did they actually contemplate letting people out on a roadside in the middle of a prairie blizzard? That’s risky and we’ll want to explore the factors that led to that kind of potentially dangerous behaviour.”

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has called on the federal government to do more about border-crossers, but did not reveal his specific demands Wednesday.

“We need a partnership. We’re asking the federal government to do that. I’ll have more to say on this issue tomorrow.”

Many of the refugee claimants at Emerson have passed through Minneapolis, home of a large Somali community.

Mohamud Noor, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, has been warning people against trekking into Canada on foot. The latest bout of bad weather reinforces that message, he said, and some people now are thinking twice about making the journey.

“But others, because they don’t have enough resources and they believe that’s the only chance that they have, they’ll take whatever risk that they can encounter. And that’s something which is dangerous.”

Noor said he is not expecting numbers to swell in the spring when the weather warms up. He suggested anyone who has considered trekking to Canada is likely to have already taken the opportunity to do so.

— By Steve Lambert in Winnipeg. With files from Lauren Krugel in Calgary

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

VIDEO: British couple vacationing detained after ‘accidentally’ crossing Langley-Lynden border

CBP claims individuals were denied travel authorization, crossing was deliberate

‘Coffee with Cops’ visits Cloverdale

Surrey RCMP Wendy Mehat says there is always a good response from the public for the informal chat sessions

Surrey’s top cop Dwayne McDonald is moving on

McDonald’s new role is RCMP’s criminal operations officer in charge of federal, investigative services and organized crime for B.C.

Overdose deaths down in Surrey, but more than two people still dying a week

As of the end of August, 86 people died by illicit drug overdose in Surrey, which is a drop from 2018

Federal candidates’ Facebook ad spending disclosed

Facebook’s new Ad Library shows how much candidates are spending on advertisements

VIDEO: B.C. man’s yard comes alive with grizzlies at night

Malakwa man has captured images of 12 different grizzlies on video

Man who orchestrated Mission murders gets day parole after serving less than three years

Victims’ parents express grief, outrage over parole board decision

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

A year after pot legalization in Canada, it’s a slow roll

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

Most Read