Eight more asylum seekers cross into Emerson


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EMERSON — The rumour spreading like wildfire through this tiny border town was that a woman walked into her garage Friday morning on her way to work and saw eight strangers staring back at her.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/02/2017 (2226 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

EMERSON — The rumour spreading like wildfire through this tiny border town was that a woman walked into her garage Friday morning on her way to work and saw eight strangers staring back at her.

In reality, the woman said she and her husband were out for their usual early morning walk when they came across eight asylum seekers.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, wanted to make clear that “nothing was broken into.” The couple invited the asylum seekers back to their heated garage.

“I am not afraid of these people whatsoever,” she said. “The ones I’ve run across have been only very grateful to be in Canada.”

In fact, it’s the sixth group of asylum seekers she and her husband have come across in the past four years, she said. They gave the latest arrivals bottled water and waited about 45 minutes for RCMP to arrive.

Since Jan. 1, 77 asylum seekers have crossed the border and there have been at least 480 in 2016-17 with still more than a month to go before the end of the fiscal year. There were 340 in all of 2015-16.

With the arrival of warm temperatures, it could be the most active weekend yet for migrants arriving in Emerson, residents say.

The process for border-jumping now follows a pretty basic routine. Asylum seekers obtain transportation to drop them off at the former Noyes border station that closed about two decades ago.

Noyes, now a ghost town in Minnesota, sits across from Emerson. Abandoned red-bricked customs buildings for Canada and the U.S. face each other across the invisible border. The asylum seekers usually walk through the deep snow of bush property on the east side of the former port station, and walk out onto Dennis Street in Emerson. It’s a five-minute walk at best, allowing for the deep snow and forest.

Typically, the first words out of their mouths are to ask if they are in Canada, said RCMP. Then they state that they are seeking asylum.

RCMP Commanding Officer Scott Kolody called it a “high priority” for RCMP to learn more about how asylum seekers are being transported to the border. He said people are arriving by bus, in the back of semi-trailers, and even by hitch-hiking.

“These are people who are sometimes desperate and have hope for a better life,” he said.

Many of those arriving at the border are not prepared for the winter conditions, and in some cases have children, he said. “These people are making dangerous treks over unknown terrain,” Kolody said, who met with media at the border for a press conference Friday. “We want to ensure their safety and well-being.” He stressed there’s a legitimate process for entering Canada.

One resident showed the Free Press the trail through the snow made by asylum seekers who arrived last weekend. Once in town, the trail branched off into the yards of various houses. The migrants will sometimes just go and just knock on people’s doors seeking help.

Kolody said the asylum seekers are predominantly from African nations initially “but that is expanding.” Kolody also informed that a United States border control officer has been working out of RCMP headquarters in Winnipeg for about a year, helping with border intelligence, but not just on the migrant issue.

Kolody would not talk about staffing and how RCMP is preparing for what could be another busy weekend.

A total of 21 asylum seekers arrived in Emerson the previous overnight Friday, Feb. 10, the largest number so far.



Updated on Friday, February 17, 2017 6:53 PM CST: Updates

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