Wednesday, October 17, 2007

40 arrested in RCMP border sweep near Stanstead

CanWest News Service

Published: 6 hours ago

Forty people were arrested, including some charged with human smuggling, in an RCMP operation conducted near the U.S. border.

Four individuals are being charged with either human smuggling or not reporting to a border station.

Officials would not provide details about the remaining individuals arrested last week in the vicinity of Stanstead, about 150 kilometres southeast of Montreal, but a lawyer says they are claiming refugee status.

Intercepted and arrested," confirmed Dominique McNeely of the CBSA. "Charges were laid by (the CBSA) against four individuals in virtue of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act."

"It's rare that we arrest such a large number of people; this doesn't happen often," McNeely said.

"During the operation some 40 individuals wereRCMP Cpl. Luc Bessette said the Mounties expected to announce today the results of the "targeted operation," which also involved U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"Following information obtained via our partners we conducted a strategic operation last week resulting in rather impressive results," he said, without providing further details.

"Most of the people who have entered are claiming refugee status," said Claire Desgens, the lawyer for a man charged with not reporting to the border station. A vast majority of those arrested were Colombian, she said. Those being criminally charged are not claiming refugee status because they are either U.S. nationals or permanent residents there.

U.S. and Canadian authorities announced this year they would seek to close three unguarded side streets that run across that border, but barriers have yet to the put in place McNeely said.