March 20, 2019 7:07 am
Updated: March 20, 2019 8:08 am

Pregnant asylum seeker rescued from snow trying to cross Manitoba border

Early Sunday morning, Feb. 26, 2017, eight migrants from Somalia crossed into Canada illegally from the United States by walking down this train track into the town of Emerson, Man., to seek asylum at Canada Border Services Agency.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
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A pregnant woman who walked across the United States border into Manitoba was rescued after she became trapped in a snowbank and appeared to go into labour.

An Emerson-Franklin official, Dave Carlson, said the 25-year-old woman, who was nine months pregnant, was very lucky that firefighters located her quickly on Saturday morning.

The woman called 911 after she walked from Minnesota across the border near Emerson. She had been following railway tracks, but ended up going off the path and wandered into deep snow along the rail bed.

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“It’s definitely dangerous,” Carlson said in an interview on Tuesday.

“You can get yourself in a bad situation quickly, especially someone in the condition she is in.”

A recent snowfall had left the area covered, Carlson said, and temperatures dropped below -20 C over the weekend. Carlson said he wasn’t sure how long the woman had been outside, but she had made it about 180 metres across the border when she got stuck.

READ MORE: Seeking Asylum: Once asylum seekers arrive in Manitoba, what are the costs involved?

The firefighters who responded to the call were able to get there in about 15 minutes.

“When our personnel showed up and found her, not only was she stuck in the snow, but she was apparently pregnant and going into labour.”

Firefighters freed the woman and kept her warm until an ambulance arrived and took her to hospital.

RCMP said she did not give birth, was placed under arrest for illegally entering the country and was later turned over to the Canada Border Services Agency.

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

On Christmas Eve in 2016, two men lost fingers to severe frostbite after crossing in the same area during a blizzard.

The two men from Ghana were among the first wave of refugee claimants to walk across the border into Canada after the newly elected president of the United States, Donald Trump, made executive orders on immigration.

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

In June 2017, the body of a woman attempting to cross into Canada was found on the U.S. side of the border.

The number of people crossing into Manitoba has fallen sharply in the past two years.

The federal government said two people were intercepted by RCMP crossing into Manitoba in the first two months of this year, compared to more than 160 in the first two months of 2017.

READ MORE: Manitoba residents voice concern over decrease in hours of operation at U.S. border crossings

The official said this weekend’s close call is a stark reminder of the dangers.

“We are really glad things worked out the way they did because it could have been a lot worse,” he said. “If her cellphone hadn’t worked for any reason, or if she didn’t have a cellphone, it would have been a real double tragedy.”

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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