Fearful Of Trump's Immigration Ban, Asylum Seekers Head To Canada

Fearful Of Trump's Immigration Ban, Asylum Seekers Head To Canada

Asylum seekers 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.

In the Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota area, Somali community leaders and activists say they've seen a growing number of asylum seekers attempting to sneak into to Canada at all costs.

U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration ban - now on hold - puts a 90-day bar on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day halt to all refugees.

Omar Jamal of The Somali Community of Minnesota, says his primary concern is tracking down those who try to head north with little resources, to make sure they've survived.

"Where are they? You know? What happened to them?"

Refugees seeking asylum in Canada have been making the trek along the U.S.-Canada border between the state of North Dakota and the Canadian province of Manitoba.

The CBC interviewed one man who wished to remain anonymous who helps smuggle asylum seekers into Canada.

"The drive in North Dakota is getting bad. And they (migrants) say 'just throw me to the border, just throw me to the border.' And I'm like, 'come on, if I drop you to the border, you're going to die.'"

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.

The 9th District Court of Appeals upheld a temporary restraining order by a U.S. judge of President Donald Trump's executive order that blocked nationwide the implementation of key parts of the travel ban has provided a reprieve for refugees trying to come to the United States.

Though many migrants still feel unsafe given the uncertainty, says Jamal.

"They do it because they think it's worth the risk. Otherwise they wouldn't do it."

President Trump is weighing a new potential revised executive order on immigration

But Canadian advocacy organizations are bracing for a greater influx of asylum-seekers, driven in part by the contrast between the ruling Liberal government's acceptance of Syrian refugees in Canada with Trump's anti-foreigner rhetoric.

More of these people would enter at border crossings, advocates say, if Canada didn't have a policy of turning many of them away when they do. The 2004 Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement requires people to apply for asylum in the first of the two countries they arrive in. Advocates argue the agreement inadvertently encourages people to dangerously sneak into Canada and make a claim rather than be rebuffed at the border.

Jamal says the Canadian government should step up to prevent unnecessary hardship.

"[I hope] the Canadian government will take some urgent steps to address these people's plights and concerns and very serious issue. I hope we can get their attention to do something about this, not watch people suffer."

Canada will offer temporary residency to any travelers stranded by U.S. President Donald Trump's orders temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries, officials say.