Contributed by Tracy Matheson
Amid fears that xenophobia is rising, refugees in the United States are leaving in escalating numbers to seek safe haven in Canada.
Manitoba’s Welcome Place refugee agency has already exceeded the number of asylum-seekers that they assisted in 2016, helping 91 claimants between Nov. 1 and Jan. 25. Many suffered extreme winter weather to walk long distances into Canada.
The Ghanaian Union of Manitoba, an organization which assists refugees with medical needs and housing, calls the influx unprecedented. “We haven’t had something before like this,” said Maggie Yeboah, the Union’s president. “We don’t know what to do.”
But Yeboah’s agency, along with many other Canadian advocacy organizations, is bracing for an increased influx of asylum-seekers. Refugees are motivated by the contrast between the Canadian government’s policy of accepting Syrian refugees, and the anti-foreigner rhetoric pervasive in the U.S.
Abdikheir Ahmed, a Somali immigrant in Winnipeg, Manitoba, who helps refugees says that many are willing to risk their lives due to their growing fears. “They will make a dash for Canada, whether they are going to go through cold weather to die or not.”
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) reported that more than 7,000 refugee applicants entered the country in 2016 through land ports of entry from the United States, an increase of 63 percent over the previous year.
During a similar time period, in excess of 2,000 more entered “irregularly” and without official authorization, in ways such as walking across unmonitored fields.
“The U.S. presidential campaign, putting undocumented immigrants and refugees in the spotlight, terrified them,” said Ghezae Hagos, counselor at Welcome Place. “The election and inauguration of Mr. Trump appears to be the final reason for those who came mostly last month.”
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