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This article was published 30/5/2017 (1607 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
NOYES, Minn. — The sheriff’s department in Noyes, Minn., says a 57-year-old woman who was believed to originally be from the African country of Ghana has died of hypothermia as she was heading to cross the border into Canada.
Mavis Otuteye was first reported missing Thursday after she was last sighted in Kittson County on May 22.
Her body was found near Noyes on Friday, and an initial autopsy concluded the cause of death was possible hypothermia, though a final autopsy is still pending.
Noyes is across the border from Emerson, one of the major sites of illegal border crossings into Canada.
Emerson-Franklin Reeve Greg Janzen had long predicted the possibility of an asylum seeker losing their life. He was saddened to be proven right.
"I hate to say it, but it’s kind of what I thought would happen, unfortunately," Janzen said Tuesday night.
In fact, Janzen said local EMS crews had been called out to treat asylum seekers twice last week after they were found "cold and disoriented."
"We thought we were out of the woods for a lot of these types of situations and it’s still happening — medical calls and now a death," he said. "We thought we were home free for the next number of months."
Janzen said the death should prompt federal politicians to change the laws that currently prohibit asylum seekers from crossing at ports of entry.
"We still have to close that loophole so these people don’t have to come in in the middle of the night," he said. "This isn’t going away."
Janzen said federal politicians, such as Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, have stopped returning his calls.
"Literally, the doors have closed," he said. "They better wake up after something like this. This is the first death. It doesn’t mean it’s the last. We could see a lot more of this.
"Let them get the screening done there (at the Canadian customs office)," Janzen added. "And if they qualify, then they let them in. If we’re going to let them come in anyway, let them come in like every other Canadian. Then they don’t have to sneak around in the middle of the night and get lost and die in a ditch."
There has been a spike in asylum seekers since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, with RCMP figures showing 859 people were stopped between official border points in April.
For the 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 that 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 Kittson County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
— The Canadian Press, with files from Randy Turner