More than 1,000 asylum seekers crossed into Manitoba from the U.S. this year


WINNIPEG _ A provincial spokeswoman says more than 1,000 asylum seekers have crossed on foot into Manitoba from the United States so far this year.

Carolyn Ryan of Manitoba Housing says 1,069 people crossed the U.S.-Canada border to seek asylum between Jan. 1 and Nov. 18.

In May, the province opened a shelter in Gretna, about 30 kilometres from Emerson where people, mostly from African countries, had been crossing.

Ryan says the shelter housed 439 people that included 29 families and 55 children, and on average they stayed about three days in town.

The shelter was staffed with security 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it cost the province $354,168 to run.

Ryan says the number of people crossing the border to seek asylum has been declining to less than 20 a week from around 30 or 40 people before, so the shelter is closing Friday.

She says staff from the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council also known as Welcome Place will pick up asylum seekers at the border from now on.

She said if numbers pick up again, the shelter could reopen.

About 80 per cent of those who crossed and make a refugee claim are staying in Manitoba, Ryan said, adding there was some opposition to housing asylum seekers in Gretna, but schools, businesses and churches responded and helped out.

At the border crossing in Emerson where many asylum seekers walk into Manitoba, the federal government has installed new signs to deter people from entering the province.

The federal government says the signs were installed Nov. 1 and outline the requirements to enter Canada through the proper channels.