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, reports Reuters.
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.
“They will make a dash for Canada, whether they are going to go through cold weather to die or not,” said Abdikheir Ahmed, a Somali immigrant in Manitoba’s capital Winnipeg who helps refugees make claims.
Prime Minister Trudeau took office in 2015 on a commitment to admit tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. “While the majority of the world is turning their backs and building walls, the fact that Trudeau took this bold humanitarian goal put [Canada] on the map,” said Chris Friesen, director of settlement services at Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia.
But this year, Canada plans to take only 7,500 government-assisted refugees – less than half last year’s number. People eager to sponsor refugees find themselves waiting years to do so.
Anisa Hussein, 20, and Lyaan Mohammed, 19, hired a smuggler to take them from Somalia to Minneapolis in August, where they planned to settle in a large Somali community. But Trump’s anti-refugee rhetoric frightened them into traveling to Manitoba days later.
“(Trump) said he would turn away the refugees and we would go back to Somalia,” said Mohammed, peeking timidly from behind the hood of a thick parka she received in Canada for winter. “We were so scared. We just wanted to be [in] a safe place.”