And so great is their fear and uncertainty of their futures in the U.S. that they’re walking across snow and ice at freezing temperatures to seek a new haven in Canada.
Refugees in the United States fearing a worsening climate of xenophobia in the wake of a divisive U.S. presidential campaign are flocking to Canada in growing numbers.
Manitoba’s Welcome Place refugee agency helped 91 claimants between Nov. 1 and Jan. 25 – more than the agency normally sees in a year. Most braved the freezing prairie winter to walk into Canada.
“We haven’t had something before like this,” said Maggie Yeboah, president of the Ghanaian Union of Manitoba, which has helped refugees get medical attention and housing. “We don’t know what to do.”
A temporary restraining order by a U.S. judge of President Donald Trump’s executive order that blocked nationwide the implementation of key parts of the travel ban has provided a reprieve for refugees trying to come to the United States.
But Canadian advocacy organizations are bracing for a greater influx of asylum-seekers, driven in part by the contrast between the ruling Liberal government’s acceptance of Syrian refugees in Canada with Trump’s anti-foreigner rhetoric.
A refugee’s account of a cold crossing
One of the many who made the trek over the weekend described the crossing to CBC News:
The temperature dipped below –20 C as a large group of refugees trudged through snowy Manitoba fields near the U.S. border Saturday.
Farhan Ahmed says he couldn’t feel his fingers or his toes as he walked about 12 kilometres along a road.
“It was very, very cold and it was icy that night,” Ahmed said.
Over the weekend, RCMP said, 22 people crossed the border near Emerson, located about 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg — 19 on Saturday and three on Sunday.
Ahmed and his group, including a family with children, finally called 911 for help. RCMP brought the refugees to a Canada Border Services Agency location where they could make their refugee claims.
“They gave us heat. If we didn’t get that, I couldn’t feel my hands. I couldn’t feel my hands, it was hard,” Ahmed said.