Refugees seeking asylum in Canada risk frost bite, running away from U.S because they are fearful of Trump’s immigration laws
African Refugees Who Seeked Asylum in US, Escape to Canada Despite Frostbite Risk
In the middle of the night, Hussein Ahmed, 34 and Mohamed Hossain, 28 moved as fast as they could through snow that reached up to their waist. They were fearful but determined to get to safety.
“Sometimes we were crawling,” Ahmed, says. “It was terrible. … I thought I would never survive such a field of ice.”
The two men were part of a group of five Somalis who crossed the Mexican border into the United States illegally, begging for asylum there. But the men began having sleepless nights because of US President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric. Then he signed an executive order temporarily (banning) refugees from seven countries including all travelers from Somalia.
That was the final sign. The two men came up with a plan to leave, and they found themselves once again having to cross the border to beg for asylum in Canada.
Ahmed and Hossain each paid a man $300 to drive them as close as possible to the border. They arrived at night and were advised to steer clear of the bright lights of the US border in the distance, where customs agents might turn them back or send them to jail.
The man had told them where to walk, but what seemed like a 30-minute journey stretched into hours. “We traveled the whole day and … actually we lost the direction,” Hossain, says.
At one point, the men thought they might die trying to save themselves. Many had never seen snow in their home country, let alone walked miles in it.
“Almost I became swallowed in the ice,” Ahmed, says.
And then the Canadian border lights were behind them. They called 911, Canadian Police officers came, and the men requested asylum.
The long journey, the steep price, and the fear had been worth it, the men say. They had been through so much before they reached America. Ahmed says he fled death threats from Al-Shabaab. Hossain says he fled discrimination as an ethnic minority in his country, after seeing his family members threatened or killed. Ahmed left behind young children when he fled; Hossain’s mother is still in Somalia, and tried to convince him from not making the dangerous border crossing.
“I could pay whatever it takes because the price is my life,” Ahmed says. “I know if I stay in the United States, I would be deported.”
Above is a picture of two men from Ghana who suffered frostbite crossing the border from the United States into Canada.
Razak Ioyal and Seidu Mohammed had no idea the journey would be so emotionally and physically brutal when they set out in December for Canada.
Mohammed suffered severe frostbite on his fingers and had to have them all amputated by a doctor. They took skin from his thigh to help repair the skin burned by frostbite.
“When you step your leg in the snow you can’t pull it out. So you have to put your hand to help your feet to pull it out,” Ioyal says.
They did this for three hours, the men said. Ioyal says his hands were so frozen it sounded like when glasses are clinked together. Neither man even knew what frostbite was.
“Something was burning inside me,” Mohammed recalls. “I was telling Seidu that … we have to give up.”
They reasoned it was better to go on than risk being sent back to the United States. But, in that moment Ioyal says he thought they might die in that field.
“We were standing in front of the highway for almost about seven good hours,” Ioyal says. “That’s where we decided that we should give up our life … we just give everything to God. “We just raised our hand. We shouting ‘help, help.’”
They eventually were found, taken to a hospital for their wounds and now have hope for a second chance at a life free of persecution. Both men had dreamed of asylum in the United States. But when they were denied, they say they had no choice but to go north. Going home would be deadly.
Mohammed says he fled Ghana because he was labeled a criminal.
Ahmed and Hossain say they were drawn to America as the land of opportunity, home of refugees, a place that cherishes human rights.
Both the Ghanaians and Somalis, along with dozens of others who have arrived since last fall, can only express gratitude for how they were welcomed to Canada.
They all express boundless gratitude for Canadians in general, and those working at the Welcome Place.
“Today I have some hope,” Ahmed says. “At least I have the hope that I would be safe in this country.”
“I thank to the government of Canada and the people of Canada and to the people at Welcome Place,” Hossain says. “I say thanks to these people because they have saved my life.”
“We feel like we are home, that’s how we feel,” Hossain says. “And the Canadian people open their hands for us. They welcome us like we are part of them.”