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After 9-hour walk, mostly barefoot, asylum seeker finds ‘welcome’ in Winnipeg

Global News' Amber McGuckin speaks with Somali refugee claimant Muna Abdi, who arrived in Winnipeg in August 2019.

It didn’t take much time for Muna Abdi to move into her new apartment at Welcome Place.

The Somali refugee claimant had only the clothes on her back, and not even shoes on her feet when she walked into Canada Aug. 25.

“I decided to go get peace here and I decided to come to Canada and cross the border.”

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Abdi is one of the thousands of people who have taken the journey across the American border, hundreds of whom have claimed refugee status in Manitoba. 

READ MORE: Canada election: Where the four main parties stand on immigration

Abdi says she felt like she had no other option, after being told she could be deported back to Africa. 

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She says her husband moved to the U.S. before her and after she joined him, he revealed he would no longer be supporting her.

“I was making the interview for the green card and my husband told me he had another girlfriend and he has two kids with that woman. I was shocked and he didn’t tell me,” she said.

READ MORE: Winnipeg couple living immigration nightmare after birth of baby in India

Abdi worked in a meat plant, but others were getting deported so she decided her best chance was to come to Canada.

“It was a hard journey,” she said.

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She took a taxi with another person close to the border and waited until it got dark to weave through the bushes to Canada. She eventually got her feet stuck in mud and lost her shoes.

“I hurt my leg. And I can’t stop walking. I was hurt, crying and I was scared of the American soldiers, they take me and take me back. And deport me to my country.”

She made it to Canada and was taken to Welcome Place, a local organization that helps settle newcomers, where for the past three weeks she’s been getting support finding resources.

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Nasra Hassan is an in-land protection councillor with the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council. She deals with many stories just like Abdi’s, she says.

“When you hear their background, when you hear the fear they run away from, how they’re prosecuted, this isn’t just someone who wants to leave their country. Some of these people are running for their lives.”

READ MORE: Canada is boosting immigration — here’s what the government is hoping to accomplish

The number of people seeking asylum in Canada by walking across the border peaked in 2017, with 1,018 crossing into Manitoba that year. There were 410 in 2018. There have been 132 so far this year.

“We certainly had a surge when Trump was elected,” immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke says.

“The level of fear in the United States was extremely high. But no, it’s not going away, we are still getting a steady stream of refugee claimants.”

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Since the spike of people crossing Canadian borders on foot in 2017, 16,855 immigration cases have been concluded. About 54 per cent of them have been accepted while about 46 per cent were rejected.

Welcome Place says since the spotlight hasn’t been on the issue as much in recent years, private donations have dropped off and they’re in need of new, in-package bedding and financial contributions.

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