Canadian woman faces human smuggling charges

Image source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption, A growing number of asylum seekers have been crossing illegally into Canada

A Saskatchewan woman has been charged with human smuggling following a months-long cross-border investigation.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested and charged Michelle Omoruyi, 43, as part of an investigation into asylum seekers crossing illegally into Canada.

She was stopped after crossing at the Saskatchewan border in a vehicle carrying nine foreign nationals.

Those nine people from West Africa have since made refugee claims in Canada.

Canadian police said on Wednesday they seized evidence and "a significant amount of cash" from a Regina home searched after Ms Omoruyi's arrest on 14 April.

The arrests are part of an ongoing joint four-month investigation by Canada and US authorities into organised human smuggling.

Jason Evert, with the Canada Border Services Agency, said during a news conference on Wednesday that investigators uncovered evidence suggesting human smugglers were facilitating illegal border crossings in the area.

United States Border Patrol also made three arrests in North Dakota near the boundary on Friday in relation to this investigation

Two of the individuals arrested were Canadian citizens. The third was Nigerian.

A growing number of asylum seekers have been crossing illegally into Canada from the US in recent months, mostly into the provinces of Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia.

The trend continued in March, with 887 people caught border-jumping last month, up from 658 in February.

Public Safety Canada warned in a statement that came with the latest border crossing figures that "trying to slip across the border in an irregular manner is not a 'free' ticket to Canada", noting asylum seekers would be processed and their claims adjudicated through due process.

Ms Omoruyi, from Regina, faces a charge of human smuggling and a charge of conspiracy to commit human smuggling.

She is scheduled to appear in provincial court on 15 May.

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