Saskatchewan RCMP charge woman with human smuggling relating to refugees

RCMP in Regina to discuss human smuggling charges involving asylum seekers

The Canada Border Services Agency says that almost half of the 1,860 migrants who have snuck across the Canada-United States border on foot rather than making a claim for refugee status at an official border crossing did so in March.

The following day, the RCMP, with the assistance of Canada Border Services Agency and Regina Police Service, conducted a search warrant on a residence in Regina.

Michelle Omoruyi, 43, was charged with one count each of human smuggling and conspiracy to commit human smuggling.

The nine people were not injured and were safely transferred to Canada Border Services Agency's custody.

Simultaneously on April 14, United States Border Patrol Grand Forks Sector arrested several subjects in relation to this investigation.

Although some 1,860 people have been intercepted trying to cross the border since US President Donald Trump's promise to crack down on immigration in January, the RCMP said it was the first time charges of human smuggling had been filed.

An investigation into organized human smuggling in southeastern Saskatchewan began last December after border officers "referred a returning male Canadian resident for further examination".

Some of those coming to Canada in spots like Emerson, Man., have told authorities they were motivated to leave the USA because of the new administration, fearful their asylum claims won't be treated fairly or that general anti-immigrant sentiment was rising.

Others had Canada in their sights all along as their final destination, obtaining USA visas exclusively for the objective of coming here.

Refugee advocates have said Canada's policy to turn back people if they make refugee claims at border crossings - a provision of the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement - exacerbates human smuggling and unlawful border crossings. Canadian police said their American counterparts also arrested people but would not say whether any charges had been laid. "They're vulnerable and may be taken advantage of by people looking to gain financially from their situation".

"To avoid the Safe Third Country (agreement), you just need to present yourself at some point other than the port of entry", she said.

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