RCMP help asylum-seeking family through snow after run-in with U.S. border patrol

Eight asylum-seekers, including four children, barely made it across the Canadian border on Friday as a U.S. border patrol officer tried to stop them.

8 people, including 4 children, barely made it across the border in an effort to claim refugee status

Family members are helped into Canada by RCMP officers along the U.S.-Canada border near Hemmingford on Friday. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Eight asylum-seekers, including four children, barely made it across the Canadian border on Friday as a U.S. border patrol officer tried to stop them and a Reuters photographer captured the scene.

As a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer seized their passports and questioned a man in the front passenger seat of a taxi that had pulled up to the border in Champlain, N.Y., four adults and four young children fled the cab and ran to Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the other side.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers assist a family as they walk across the U.S.-Canada border. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

One by one they scrambled across the snowy gully separating the two countries. RCMP officers watching from the other side helped them up, lifting the younger children and asking a woman, who leaned on her fellow passenger as she walked, if she needed medical care.

The children looked back from where they had come as the U.S. officer held the first man, saying his papers needed to be verified. The man turned to a pile of belongings and heaved pieces of luggage two at a time into the gully — enormous wheeled suitcases, plastic shopping bags, a black backpack.

"Nobody cares about us," he told journalists.
A man throws his family's suitcases towards the border Feb. 17. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

The RCMP declined on Friday to confirm the nationalities of the people. The Canadian Press says an RCMP officer at the scene told their photographer that they were carrying passports from Somalia. However, a Reuters photo showed that at least one of their passports was Sudanese. 

An earlier Reuters report said the man claimed they were all from Sudan, and had been living and working in Delaware for two years.

The man then appeared to grab their passports from the U.S. officer before making a run for the border.

The officer yelled and gave chase but stopped at the border marker. Canadian police took hold of the man's arm as he crossed.
RCMP officers helped the children as they climbed through the snow to cross the border into Quebec. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

The border patrol officer told his counterpart that the man was in the United States illegally and that he would have detained him. Officers on both sides momentarily eyed the luggage strewn in the snow before the U.S. officer took it, and a walker left on the road, to the border line.

The RCMP carried the articles to their vehicles, and the people piled in to be driven to a nearby border office to be interviewed by police and to make a refugee claim.
A man runs for the border after taking his family's passports from a U.S. border patrol officer as he was detained after his family crossed the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

People seeking refugee status have been pouring over the Canada-U.S. border as the United States looks to tighten its policies on refugees and illegal immigrants.

Asylum-seekers sneak across because even if they are caught, they can make a claim in Canada; if they make a claim at a border crossing, they are turned away.

A U.S. border patrol officer looks over with luggage by his feet after the family fled across the border. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

With files from Canadian Press