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Border-town residents upset, but not surprised by asylum-seeker's death

Facebook</p><p>Mavis Otuteye</p>


Mavis Otuteye

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/5/2017 (1165 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

NOYES, Minn. — A Ghanaian woman whose body was found near this Minnesota hamlet Friday is believed to have been trying to cross into Canada to join her daughter in Toronto, the president of the Ghanaian Union of Manitoba says.

"We're rallying to help, but we don't have all the information yet," Maggie Yeboah in Winnipeg said Wednesday night.

Yeboah was contacted by a member of the Ghanaian community in Toronto saying Mavis Otuteye, 57, had a daughter living there. Ghanaians in Manitoba want to make sure Otuteye is paid proper final respects, Yeboah said. They're waiting to hear from her next of kin, she said.

Around the semi-deserted hamlet of Noyes, Minn., residents were horrified to learn an asylum seeker from Ghana was found dead in a "coulee" or ditch running through a farm field nearly a kilometre south of the Canadian border just west of Highway 75.

"On Friday afternoon I saw the border patrol — a helicopter and four-wheelers over there," a man at Chale's Service garage said, pointing to the farm field to the west. The man, who did not want to give his name, said asylum seekers aren't a rare sight in the community with a well-worn path across the border to Canada.

"You find a lot of T-shirts and socks," said another man in a white pickup truck who farms near where Otuteye's body was found.

Her body was transported by the Kittson County Sheriff’s department to the medical examiner’s office at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, a U.S. Border patrol officer said. U.S. authorities said initially that hypothermia appears to be the cause of death.

Otuteye was reported missing May 25 and was seen in Kittson County on May 22.

The path from where Otuteye was found to Emerson isn't smooth or dry, said the farmer in the truck, who didn't want to be identified. Slogging through farm fields and ditches on the way to the border, "they (asylum seekers) get wet."

The vicinity near Noyes, Minn., where the body of a Ghanaian woman was found, less than a kilometre from the Canadian border. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

The vicinity near Noyes, Minn., where the body of a Ghanaian woman was found, less than a kilometre from the Canadian border. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)

He was expecting one of the migrants would succumb to the cold one day but didn't expect it would happen in late May.

While a U.S. Border Patrol truck drove up and down the back roads in the area, he said he worries more people hoping to find safety in Canada may have perished.

"I hope not," he said.

A woman who lives down the road from the site said most people in the area feel for the people making their way to the border.

"They just want to go somewhere safe," said the woman, who was caring for a toddler running around outside holding a basketball.

She said she has seen many Somalis pass through the area on their way north. She was shocked and saddened to hear about the death of the 57-year-old woman from Ghana.

"They're trying to get away from (U.S. President Donald) Trump," said the woman, adding she was afraid to have her name published. "Can you blame them?"

There has been a spike in asylum seekers since Trump's election last November. RCMP figures show 859 people were stopped between official border points in April.

This year so far, there have been 1,993 interceptions in Quebec, 477 in Manitoba and 233 in British Columbia.

Asylum seekers have avoided official border crossings because of the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which stipulates people who have made a claim in the U.S. must be turned back at Canadian border points. If they get onto Canadian soil first, they fall under a section of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that says they can’t be penalized if they are deemed to be refugees.

Otuteye’s case is currently under investigation by the sheriff’s department and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

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Updated on Wednesday, May 31, 2017 at 10:47 PM CDT: removes sidebar

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