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Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.

No one told Mavis Otuteye she did not have to die that way: Mochama

The death of a woman on the Manitoba border shows the world seems to be moving farther away from a solution to the global migrant crisis.

Migrants crossing from the U.S. into Emerson, Man., in February.

The Canadian Press

Migrants crossing from the U.S. into Emerson, Man., in February.

Mavis Otuteye wanted to meet her new grandchild. She never got there. She died of hypothermia while walking into our country.

Her death is an indictment of a national and global failure to respond meaningfully to the worldwide migrant crisis. Yet, a clear and concerted strategy seems to be far away.

Otuteye, a Ghanaian woman, had been living without a valid visa in the States since 2006. In light of the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented persons, it is reasonable that she would not want to make herself known to immigration authorities. A danger of living without papers is that a chance incident can lead to one’s removal. With the knowledge that asylum claimants would be turned away at official border crossings because of the Safe Third Country agreement, it is still more plausible that walking across the border made the most sense to Otuteye.

However, lawyers speaking to the CBC say that the Safe Third Country Agreement would have allowed Otuteye because her granddaughter is a Canadian citizen. The 2004 accord has a number of compassionate grounds on which migrants can cross between borders.

Having told no one of her plan, Otuteye was unaware of her options.

What is contained in words and documents is far different to the reality on the ground. The terms of the STCA and the prime minister’s January tweet welcoming refugees are part of a world of misinformation that puts migrants — especially undocumented ones — in danger. Theirs is a world of ad-hoc systems, reliance on rumours, opportunistic scammers and ever-shifting legal paradigms.

Yet Canadian and international governments have not been able to provide migrants with any clarity.

Reports on the recent G7 summit in Italy overlooked the inability of world leaders to come to an agreement on the global migrant crisis. Because of American recalcitrance, the summit instead released a short statement acknowledging the problem but shifting responsibility for it back to individual countries. With Donald Trump in charge of American policy, an international version of “Refugees Welcome” seems unlikely.

This will not stop the flow of migrants into Canada or elsewhere. After much pretence to public safety, Trump has finally tweeted that the executive order dubbed a “travel ban” is exactly that.

Still, the Canadian government insists it will not change the terms of the STCA. In Europe, the Guardian reports that the death rate for migrants crossing the Mediterranean has doubled. Meanwhile, the far-right has crowdfunded enough money for a boat to intercept search-and-rescue boats there.

Whether we take action on it or not, the global migrant crisis is happening. Without a unified humanitarian solution, more migrants will continue to die like Mavis Otuteye: cold and alone.

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