WINNIPEG — The exhaustion in Mustaffa Jaelle’s voice could still be heard as he described his long walk into Canada, and what he hopes is a better life.
“I started walking at 7 p.m. in the evening, I get to Emerson at 5 morning, a.m.,” Jaelle said.
The 28-year-old said he made the 10 hour walk through the fields and away from the highway because he didn’t want to be caught.
“The thing I was scared was police in the United States,” Jaelle said.
His crossing into Manitoba at Emerson early Wednesday morning marks the end of a long journey that began two year ago in Somalia.
In 2015 Jaelle travelled from the war-torn African country to South America with an initial goal of seeking asylum in the United States.
He told reporters Thursday it would take three months before he crossed at the Texas border.
“I went to Brazil, some place I took a boat, cross river, I was in Panama, I was in Colombia…I was just three months travelling,” Jaelle said.
In Texas he said he asked for asylum and was sent to a detention center in Florida. There Jaelle said he was detained for 15 months before being told in December, 2016 his asylum request had been denied, and that he would be sent back to Somalia.
It was then that he made his decision to try and get to Canada.
He made his way to Minneapolis and then at some point this week Jaelle said he paid a taxi around $300 to drive him north. He walked about 11 hours through the fields and under the cover of darkness.
“They denied my case and they wanted to send me back to Somalia,” Jaelle said. “I can’t go back to Somalia, you guys know Somalia, there is a civil war.”
“I can’t go back to Somalia because some of my family get killed over there.”
Jaelle has family in Toronto and is eventually hoping to make his way to Ontario.
“I just want life, a better life.”
Somalia has been torn apart by decades of conflict and natural disaster such as drought. The country has an estimated 1.1 million displaced people. It has been trying to rebuild after decades of chaos that began in 1991 when warlords overthrew a longtime dictator. Extremist group al-Shabab continues to launch deadly attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere, threatening the country’s first functioning central government in years.