Manitoba

Bracing for possible spike in asylum seekers crossing border over long weekend

After a dip in the number of people walking across the border last month, agencies working with refugees in Manitoba are bracing themselves for a possible surge over the Canada Day long weekend.

Combination of factors, including partial upholding of U.S. travel ban, could drive up numbers

After a dip in the number of people walking across the border last month, agencies working with refugees in Manitoba are bracing themselves for a possible surge over the Canada Day long weekend. 1:45

After a dip in the number of people walking across the border last month, agencies working with refugees in Manitoba are bracing themselves for a possible surge over the Canada Day long weekend.

In May, RCMP saw a significant decrease in the number of people intercepted after crossing the Canada-U.S. border. Police took 106 people into custody in the province last month, compared to 146 in April, 170 in March and 142 in February.
Carolyn Ryan, with Manitoba Housing, says whether or not Manitoba gets more people coming across the border this weekend, support from the community is still needed. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

Carolyn Ryan, executive director for portfolio management with Manitoba Housing, said several factors are converging on this weekend that could contribute to a spike, including that the Supreme Court partially upheld U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries. It's also the end of Ramadan and the end of the school year.

"But we're ready, we think. We hope," she said.

A temporary shelter for asylum seekers in Gretna, Man. has housed a total of 132 since opening May 4. Ryan said operations have gone smoothly and currently the building is almost empty.

"The beds are there and ready. We have staff on site. And so we can mobilize Gretna very quickly," Ryan said.

A 24/7 shelter in Winnipeg operated by the Salvation Army is also ready, and Ryan said Welcome Place has adapted well to the "dynamic environment."

A temporary shelter for refugees in Gretna, Man. has beds ready in case more asylum seekers walk across the Canada-U.S. border over the upcoming long weekend. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Fears have not materialized: lawyer

Winnipeg immigration lawyer Bashir Khan does not expect to see a significant increase in asylum seekers crossing the border this weekend. He said the surge that began in January was motivated less by Trump's travel ban and more by fear of mass deportations, which have not materialized.

"Since April till now, I've seen a massive drop in the number of refugee claimants that I have been getting assigned in my own law practice. So speaking of my own practice, there is a huge drop in refugee claimants."

Khan said the surge in refugee claimants earlier this year was a "fluke."

"I think it was just a one-off thing that happened because of the uncertainty of whether President Trump was going to deport everyone who had overstayed their welcome to the U.S."

Whether or not Manitoba gets more people coming across the border this weekend, Ryan said support from the community is still needed, particularly hygiene kits.

"Towels, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, diapers [adult and infant], sanitary napkins, things like that. All of those go quickly," she said.

People can drop off donations at the Salvation Army or Welcome Place, Ryan said.

With files from Karen Pauls