Woman arrested for trying to smuggle West African asylum seekers into Canada
A Regina woman has been charged with smuggling a group of asylum seekers at the Saskatchewan border, in the first case of its kind since an influx of migrants seeking refugee status, intent on crossing the Canadian border, has picked up.
Michelle Omoruyi, 43, was arrested on the scene after the RCMP found her with nine West African asylum seekers in her car, which was stopped on the Canadian side of the border between the North Portal, North Dakota. and Northgate ports of entry on Friday.
She’s has been charged with one count of human smuggling, and one count of conspiracy to commit human smuggling.
The next day, as part of the investigation, police searched a residence in Regina — they wouldn’t say if it was linked to Omoruyi — and seized evidence including a significant amount of cash, much of which was foreign currency, now being examined by proceeds of crime experts, according to the RCMP.
The nine people were not injured, and have been released after being processed by the Canada Border Services Agency, which refused to release their ages, genders or nationalities.
The arrests were made as part of investigation that began in December, known as Project Fadduce, involving both Canadian and U.S. authorities.
“Throughout the course of the investigation, the CBSA uncovered evidence to suggest suspected smugglers were allegedly bringing foreign nationals into Canada from the United States by facilitating their illegal crossing between designated ports of entry,” Jason Evert, an assistant director with the border agency, said in a press conference on Wednesday.
Several others, whose names have not been released, were also arrested by American authorities on the U.S. side of the border, also connected to the human smuggling investigation.
In recent months, hundreds of asylum seekers have been making the trek across the Manitoba border into the town of Emerson. The numbers have spiked since the election of President Donald Trump, with fears that an immigration crackdown is looming and that their prospects in Canada may be better.
Omoruyi is set to appear in court on May 15.
Cover: John Woods/The Canadian Press