New numbers show spike in asylum seekers crossing from U.S. to Manitoba

January 10, 2017

By Austin Grabish, Laura Glowacki, CBC News |

The number of asylum seekers crossing the Canada-U.S. border into Manitoba on foot instead of through official ports of entry has risen fivefold in the past three years.

In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, 68 people illegally crossed the international border near the small, southern Manitoba community of Emerson and claimed refugee status, according to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). That jumped to 340 in 2015-2016.

This fiscal year’s numbers have already surpassed that, with 410 asylum seekers making the journey between April and December 2016.

According to Jacquie Callin, a CBSA spokeswoman, most of those crossing near Emerson are from Somalia, which has been wracked by civil war and political instability since the overthrow of military dictator Siad Barre in 1991.

Canada has the reputation of being a land of liberty and appeals to the unprecedented number of refugees displaced by the world’s various conflicts and crises, said immigration lawyer Bashir Khan.

“What we are seeing as Canadians at our borders is basically a symptom of what a chaotic, messed-up world we live in,” he said.

Khan said he is especially troubled by the number of people crossing unsupervised sections of the U.S.-Canada border in the cold winter months.

The potential dangers of that trek were highlighted by the harrowing story of two men from Ghana who are recovering from frostbite after walking into Canada and getting lost on Christmas Eve.

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