February 12, 2017 8:16 pm
Updated: February 12, 2017 9:12 pm

‘This is the only way to be safe’: Former refugees react to influx of asylum seekers in Emerson, Manitoba

WATCH: Refugees streaming into Canada illegally from US.

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WINNIPEG — A day after making the treacherous trek in to Canada, asylum seekers have found refuge in a Winnipeg refugee aid centre.

RCMP say they illegally entered Canada on Saturday night.

“RCMP intercepted two groups of people illegally crossing the border at Emerson, Manitoba. The first group was five individuals; the second group was 16, for a total of 21 people who were arrested for illegally crossing the border,” officers said in a statement.

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WATCH: At least 21 asylum seekers crossed into Manitoba early Saturday: RCMP

Rita Chahal, with Welcome Place, welcomed the refugees Saturday after they had finished processing with Canada Border Services Agency in Emerson, Manitoba.

Immigration lawyer Lorne Wildman said the refugees can be charged under the immigration refugee protection act for entering Canada illegally.

“But, they will have right to refugee claims heard in Canada, which they wouldn’t have crossing at land border crossings,” Wildman added.

He said that’s because of the safe third country agreement, wherein if a person crosses from the U.S. into Canada and makes a claim for refugee status at a land border crossing, they are told they can’t claim it because they already have the status in the U.S. in most cases.

RELATED: Law students in Manitoba join Canadian students to come up with a way to help refugees

“But, if they cross illegally in to Canada somewhere other than border crossing and then meet with immigration officers in Canada, then third party agreement does not apply to them,” Wildman said.

The federal government responded to the influx of asylum seekers jumping across the border illegally, saying not everyone is eligible to seek asylum in Canada.

Officials told Global News that people convicted of serious criminal offences and those who have had previous refugee claims denied by Canada are not eligible to make a claim.

Nour Ali and Maysoun Darweesh moved to Winnipeg just over four years ago as Syrian refugees — they were sponsored and went about it the legal way. However, the couple said they do understand the dire situation some refugees are facing.

“A lot of cases they have no choice. They have [a] feeling they are not safe there. They are feeling one day they will kick them out from U.S.,” Nour Ali said.

While this weekend only saw one big group of asylum seekers make the overnight trek to Emerson from the US, the Reeve of Emerson said he doesn’t think this will be the last group of refugees he’ll be seeing.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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