Regina woman charged with human smuggling after 9 asylum seekers intercepted at border
Michelle Omoruyi, 43, arrested after 4-month police investigation
A Regina woman is facing charges after a four-month investigation into human smuggling.
On Friday, RCMP stopped nine foreign nationals on the Canadian border between the North Portal, N.D., and Northgate ports of entry.
Police arrested Michelle Omoruyi, 43, who was driving a vehicle with the nine people in it.
She has been charged with one count of human smuggling under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and one count of conspiracy to commit human smuggling.
The nine people weren't harmed, and were all taken into custody by the Canada Border Services Agency. They have since been released.
All of the asylum seekers are from West Africa, and all are now claiming refugee status in Canada. No other information, including nationality, gender or age is being released.
The CBSA has been investigating human smuggling in the Saskatchewan region since December. Just before Christmas, border agents flagged a man who had been frequently using the North Portal entry for more investigation, and brought in RCMP investigators.
On Friday, U.S. border agents noted that the same man had crossed the border into North Dakota, and alerted the Canadians. That night, RCMP were flagged that a smuggling attempt may be in the works.
By 9 p.m. CST, the RCMP pulled over Omoruyi as she was driving in an isolated area north of the border. The nine asylum seekers were in the vehicle, according to police.
The man involved in the investigation was arrested by U.S. police. He has not been charged.
All of the asylum seekers were processed by the CBSA and released.
RCMP said a significant amount of cash was seized from a house connected to Omoruyi.
Few refugee crossings in Saskatchewan
Droves of asylum seekers have been making their way north into Canada from the U.S. in the wake of Donald Trump's election as president.
The border town of Emerson, Man., has seen many asylum seekers walk across the border, as the province provides legal help to refugees.
Saskatchewan is one of four provinces that does not provide legal help. Anyone claiming refugee status in the province has to pay out of pocket.
Between January and March 2017, there were five asylum claims made in Saskatchewan. In the same time period, there were 331 claims made in Manitoba.
With files from Micki Cowan