Woman charged with human smuggling at US-Canada border

A Canadian woman has been charged with human smuggling after being stopped with asylum seekers at the US-Canada border in Saskatchewan. Authorities fear warmer weather will lead to increased crossings.

Canadian authorities said Wednesday that a woman stopped with nine asylum seekers in her vehicle at the US-Canada border has been arrested and charged with human smuggling. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said the migrants were from West Africa, but refused to give further details.

Michelle Omoruyi, 43, was arrested on Friday as part of an ongoing investigation by Saskatchewan authorities into potential human trafficking along the world’s longest land border. According to reports, other suspects were detained on the US side of the border in connection with the same incident.

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.

Uptick in illegal crossings as weather warms

Canadian authorities caught 887 people trying to cross the border in March alone, leading to fears that the numbers will continue to increase with warmer weather.

The increase has also prompted calls to review the Safe Third Country Agreement, under which Canada is obliged to return refugees to the US if they make an asylum claim at a border checkpoint. There is a loophole, however: if anyone is found at an illegal crossing they are brought into Canada for questioning, where they can then apply for asylum.

“The majority of irregular migrants are holders of visas for the United States,” said a statement by Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. “To be clear – trying to slip across the border in an irregular manner is not a ‘free’ ticket to Canada.”

The nine migrants have now applied for refugee status in Canada and must wait until their claims are processed to know whether they will be allowed to remain in the country. Omoruyi is set to appear in court on May 15.

es/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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