'We are part of the Canadian people' now, frostbitten refugee on road to recovery says
Razak Iyal and Seidu Mohammed walked into Manitoba from North Dakota on Christmas Eve
After all his fingers were removed because of severe frostbite, a Ghanaian refugee who walked into Canada seeking asylum on Christmas Eve says he's healing well though the pain still bothers him.
"It's going to be like that till it gets healed, so I'm used to it," said Seidu Mohammed, 24. "I think everything's going to be OK."
Doctors could have used some of the Ghanaian refugee's toes to replace his fingers, but he said no. He wanted to be able to play soccer.
In December, Mohammed crossed the border into Manitoba from North Dakota on foot and waited several hours on the highway in the cold before a driver picked him up.
He made the journey with another Ghanaian refugee, Razak Iyal, 35. The pair had never met before their paths crossed on the way to Canada.
Iyal was also badly frostbitten. All his fingers were amputated except for his thumbs, but he said it was worth it for the chance to live in Canada.
"The president of the Ghana community [in Winnipeg], she has been coming every day, every day.… She brings us food, everything we need," Iyal said.
"She's been helping us, and most of the Canadian people, too … when they see us they have been good to us. Now I think we are part of the Canadian people."
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On March 27, Iyal will have his hearing to determine whether he can stay in Canada. Mohammed will have his hearing on March 23. Both refugees will be represented by Winnipeg immigration and refugee lawyer Bashir Khan.
In the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial 120-day ban on refugees, Iyal said he thinks more people will seek asylum in Canada.
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"For now, I think, because of what's going on in the States now, I think more people will decide that 'Let's come to Canada and try our best,'" he said. "Because most of the people are in the situation that when they go back to their home country, some of them [are] going to suffer of torture, some of them are going to go to prison for all of their lives, some of them are thinking they are going to [be] killed.
"Most people like us, we don't want to go back because of what is going on there."
Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council officials said they opened 10 new files for refugee claimants on Monday. Eight of them had walked over the border.
Council workers have met with more than 80 applicants wanting to open refugee files in the last three months. Typically, the council receives 50 to 60 in an entire year.
If they're allowed to stay, Iyal and Mohammed hope to find a place to live together.
"We are strong now. We are young and we are strong," said Mohammed. "We are going to make it through life."
With files from Cameron MacIntosh