A growing number of people seeking asylum continue to cross into Manitoba illegally near Emerson, most of them on foot.
According to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), 68 people entered the province from the U.S. in 2013-2014 fiscal year and claimed refugee status. That number jumped to 340 in 2015-2016 and this year's numbers have already climbed above that, with 410 refugees walking across unsupervised sections of the U.S.-Canada border between April and December 2016.
Most of the asylum seekers are from countries that have been wracked by war, civil strife and political instability, such as Somalia. Many refugees see Canada as the best place to escape the various conflicts that are going on around the world.
People entering the country without visas or proper immigration papers have frequently been spotted walking through fields, along country roads and even along Highway 75 near Emerson.
CBSA is responsible for the operation of all ports of entry, while RCMP are tasked with patrolling the 520 kilometres of the Manitoba-U.S. border in between those entry ports.
"We do have people and technology to protect that border, but unfortunately people do enter illegally," said Tara Seel, RCMP media spokesperson. "When that happens, RCMP will arrest that person and take them to the nearest Canada Border Services Agency location where they can make a refugee claim."
An agreement between Canada and the U.S. states that individuals must seek asylum in the country in which they first arrive. Refugees who arrived in the United States but presented themselves at the Canadian border seeking asylum, would be turned back to the U.S. unless they had family in Canada. In order to avoid that situation, refugees will cross somewhere other than an official port of entry or border checkpoint.
An official with the Canadian Council for Refugees argues the threat of being turned back at official border crossings is a big factor behind the increasing number of asylum seekers bypassing official checkpoints.