Declining number of asylum seekers surprises reeve of Manitoba border town
RCMP caught 106 crossing border in May, down from previous months
The reeve of the Manitoba town that's been the backdoor to Canada for asylum seekers entering Canada from the U.S. wonders if the recent discovery of the body of a Ghanaian woman has scared refugee claimants from making the trek across the border.
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Preliminary statistics released by the federal government late Friday show a decline in the number of asylum seekers who've been intercepted by the RCMP in Manitoba for the month of May.
Just 106 people were taken into custody in the province by the RCMP in May compared to 146 the month before, 170 in March and 142 in February.
'Not as safe as they think it is'
The total number of border crossers caught by the RCMP now sits at 583 as of Friday, but the figure doesn't include asylum seekers who weren't processed by Mounties and were able to get into Winnipeg without getting taken into custody.
"I didn't expect May to be that slow," said Emerson-Franklin Reeve Greg Janzen adding he now wonders if the death of Mavis Otuteye has scared border crossers from making the trek into Canada.
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"It's not as safe as they think it is," Janzen said. U.S. border officers found Otuteye, a Ghanaian woman, dead in a ditch near the Canada-U.S. border in Noyes, Minn. on May 26.
CBC learned after her death that Otuteye was living in the U.S. on an expired visitor's visa and was on her way to Toronto to visit her newborn granddaughter.
Janzen said her death has raised a lot of questions for his council. "Are we going to have more people perishing?"
Winnipeg immigration lawyer Dean Szikinger is representing some asylum seekers who've walked over the border and said while many thought numbers would go up once the weather warmed up, it was too soon to tell.
"You need this data over a longer period of time."
Still, Szikinger called the number of refugee claimants entering Manitoba "significant."
Janzen agreed and said the wave of asylum seekers has put a massive strain on resources in his rural town, especially for RCMP who are now stationed near the border at all hours of the day and night.
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"It's got to be an awful boring job for them to sit there and wait."
Emerson is located about about 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg.