REGINA—A Saskatchewan woman has been charged with human smuggling after RCMP intercepted a vehicle carrying nine refugee claimants who authorities believe crossed the border from the United States.
Mounties say a woman was stopped last Friday on the Canadian side of the border between the North Portal and Northgate crossings—the legal entry points into Saskatchewan from North Dakota.
Police say nine people from West Africa were in the vehicle.
“They were processed by the CBSA [Canada Border Services Agency] and they've been released into Canada,” RCMP Insp. Donovan Fisher said yesterday.
“They've made claims for refugee protection.”
RCMP would not confirm the ages, gender, or nationalities of the refugee claimants.
An investigation into organized human smuggling in southeastern Saskatchewan began last December after border officers “referred a returning male Canadian resident for further examination.”
The border services agency said there was evidence to suggest smugglers were bringing foreign nationals into Canada from the U.S.
Last Friday, American border authorities identified a suspect in the investigation as he entered the U.S.
They notified their Canadian counterparts, who, in turn, alerted the RCMP “that a smuggling attempt may be imminent.”
The vehicle was stopped at 9 p.m. on Friday.
A home in Regina was searched the following day and RCMP said a significant amount of cash was found.
“A fair portion of this currency was foreign currency,” noted Fisher.
Michelle Omoruyi, 43, is charged with human smuggling and conspiracy to commit human smuggling.
She is to appear in court May 15 in Estevan, Sask.
Police also said the United States Border Patrol has arrested other people related to the same investigation, but no details have been released.
“They're conducting a parallel investigation on the south side of the border,” said Fisher.
Fisher noted it's the first case in which RCMP have intercepted illegal immigrants coming into Saskatchewan this year.
“So although it's organized, it's not necessarily something that's occurring on a daily or a weekly basis,” he remarked.