News / Winnipeg

More than 200 asylum seekers have crossed the border near Emerson, including 19 since Tuesday

The reeve of Emerson-Franklin confirms there were a "number of medical issues" with new arrivals including someone possibly breaking an arm.

Migrants from Somalia cross into Canada from the United States by walking down a train track early Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 into the town of Emerson.

John Woods/The Canadian Press

Migrants from Somalia cross into Canada from the United States by walking down a train track early Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 into the town of Emerson.

At least 19 more new arrivals walked into Canada between Tuesday and Wednesday in the midst of one of the winter's most brutal storms, says the area reeve.

Greg Janzen, reeve of Emerson-Franklin, said two people were picked up by emergency responders near Emerson Tuesday night, while 17 more were found huddled in a carport north of the town Wednesday morning. 

Because of a raging blizzard, Janzen said the second group walked three-quarter miles north of the town of Emerson, not realizing they had arrived in Canada.

"I just can't imagine trying to walk in zero visibility and not knowing the area," he said of their journey.

Janzen said there were a "number of medical issues" among the asylum seekers and someone had possibly broken an arm. There were women, men and one child among the new arrivals.

Volunteer first responders from Emerson helped RCMP officers locate the asylum seekers, said Jeff French, the volunteer fire chief.

Though the volunteers are getting calls at all hours of the night recently to help locate refugee claimants, French said they are managing well and feel supported by the provincial and federal governments' responses.

French said communication is open between his department and Manitoba health authorities in case they need back-up and more paramedics on the ground.

Highway 75 has been closed due to the severe weather and commuters arriving from Emerson have stayed put in the town. 

The community complex has been opened for stranded travelers, Janzen said, a move that happens when the two hotels in town are full. 

Sgt. Cory Meyers, head of the Manitoba RCMP's integrated border enforcement team, said the police are concerned for the safety of those attempting to cross. 

"With the severe weather we have been having, those who are illegally crossing the border are taking huge risks walking for long periods of time in open areas with high winds, deep snow and cold temperatures," Meyers said in an email. "Their well-being is jeopardized, and we don’t want to see anybody hurt. The RCMP strongly discourages those attempting to cross the border from making the trek. The risks are too high in this harsh weather."

At least 202 people have been intercepted illegally crossing the border near Emerson since Jan. 1.

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