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22 migrants flee US to seek asylum in Canada

A man who claimed to be from Sudan looks back after being detained by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers after running across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Canada, from Champlain in New York, U.S., February 17, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

At least 22 migrants fled the United States for Canada over the weekend, sneaking across the border in Manitoba province to request asylum, authorities said on Monday.

Twenty-two people, mostly from Africa, crossed the border on foot overnight Saturday into Sunday, said Greg Janzen, a local official in the city of Emerson. Eight others had arrived on Friday.

Emerson, 120 kilometers south of Winnipeg and close to the US states of North Dakota and Minnesota, has seen the porous border — in many areas with no official crossings — drawing greater numbers of asylum seekers since US President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

The Republican took office in January and promptly signed an order to temporarily ban US entry for nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries, and for all refugees.

Under a bilateral agreement, asylum-seekers from the United States are usually turned back at Canada’s border crossings.

But this does not apply to those crossing the border illegally in other places.

Migrants who crossed into Canada in early February faced harsh, frigid conditions: two had their hands frozen and needed to have several fingers amputated.

But temperatures were much milder this past weekend. Migrant arrivals, mostly people who are undocumented in the United States, are rising sharply in Manitoba.

Ninety-nine people crossed the border since the beginning of the year to seek asylum, local authorities say.

The trend has officials in Emerson fretting. They have asked federal and provincial authorities to increase resources to address the situation.

“Illegal crossings are dangerous and a burden on our local communities, and our laws must be enforced,” Tony Clement, a Conservative spokesman for public safety issues, said on Twitter.

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