WINNIPEG — Crossing the border with six other people three weeks ago, a woman who asked to be identified as Salwa, walked three hours through fields just outside of Emerson, Man., with the temperature hovering around -14 C.
Salwa is from Djibouti and her first language is French. A translator worked with Global News to speak to the woman about her experience crossing the border.
“I was very scared, and it was dark and I was worried I wasn’t going to make it to the other side because of the cold,” Salwa said.
Salwa said she paid a stranger $500 to drive her and five other asylum seekers from Minneapolis to just south of the Canadian border. They all had the same plan; to cross into Canada illegally.
“A few of them had their documents, and they used to work also, but with the new Donald Trump politics they are scared and they want a better life,” Salwa said.
The 29-year-old is staying in an apartment with six women who also recently crossed. People in the community are helping to pay the rent, for their food and covering all of their day-to-day expenses.
“We’re assembling a team. We are setting up a campaign to raise awareness for these people, apply for work permits for them,” Hussein Adam with African Communities of Manitoba Inc. said.
The local support group has been doing what they can to help the dozens of men and women who have crossed in the last two months. Adam calls the situation a crisis.
“This is not a beautiful summer where the fields are green and people are walking. This is a dire situation. People are walking to freedom,” Adam said.
Salwa said she knows of others who are planning to make the same journey – looking for a new life. She said it wasn’t difficult to find a driver willing to take people to the Canadian border.
“Most of the people that came here that I talked to including me are educated and we are ready to get involved in society,” Salwa said.
Since January, 104 people seeking refugee status have walked across the border into Emerson. People Global News spoke to who’ve just made the journey say they expect the number of asylum seekers to increase as the weather gets warmer.