Manitoba

Yahya Samatar, Somali who swam into Canada, wins bid to stay here

Yahya Samatar, the Somali man who swam across the Red River from North Dakota to Manitoba, is allowed to stay in Canada as a "protected person" and cannot be deported, ruled an adjudicator today.
Yahya Samatar, the Somali man who swam across the Red River from North Dakota to Manitoba, is allowed to stay in Canada as a "protected person" and cannot be deported 1:44
Yahya Samatar stands with Karin Gordon, executive director of resettlement for Hospitality House Refugee Ministry, just before the start of Wednesday's hearing. (Kaj Hasselriis/CBC)
Yahya Samatar, the Somali man who swam across the Red River from North Dakota to Manitoba, is allowed to stay in Canada as a "protected person" and cannot be deported, ruled an adjudicator today. 

Immediately after the hearing Wednesday morning at the Victory Building in Winnipeg, Samatar broke into a smile, telling CBC News he can now focus on the future.

"I'm really happy that the constitution of the Canada give me a protections," he said in an excited, broken English. "Really very happy that I am a protected person as from today. Yeah, I'm really very, very, very happy."

Samatar's lawyer, Bashir Khan, said Wednesday's ruling means his client should receive his permanent residence status in Canada within the next 12-14 months. When that happens, his wife and children will also get the same status.

There is a further three-year wait to get Canadian citizenship after that.

A human rights worker in his homeland, Samatar said he faced persecution by al-Shabaab, a militant group linked to al-Qaeda. Fearing for his life, he left his family behind in August 2014 and paid smugglers to take him to Ethiopia, Brazil, Central America and eventually to the United States.

When he made it to American soil, he spent six months in a detention centre. Denied refugee status, Samatar made his way north to the Canada-U.S. border in North Dakota in August 2015.

At about 6 a.m. on Aug. 5, he stood at the Red River, looking across into Manitoba. He stripped down, jumped in and swam across.

Not long afterwards, Samatar was spotted by a passerby on the side of a road just outside Emerson, shivering in just his underwear.

Yahya Samatar kneels beside the Red River, which he swam across to get to Canada. (CBC)
The man gave Samatar some clothes and a drink, then called 911. An emergency team arrived and wrapped him in a blanket and border officials were contacted.

Samatar was taken to the border station in Emerson and interviewed. Officials then called Hospitality House Refugee Ministry in Winnipeg, and he has been in their care since.

Will have to raise thousands for fees, costs

After the adjudicator told him he could stay, an emotional Samatar said he was thrilled and can't wait to make Winnipeg his family's home.

"It's really unbelievable. The day I was coming the Canada I was not, you know, expecting the hospitality I've gotten. The welcome, I've got it from the Manitoba, Winnipeg. It's really very nice," he said.

Khan added though, there is some hard work ahead for Samatar. Samatar has to find work and start saving the thousands of dollars he's going to need for in application fees and airline tickets to bring his family here. 

"Yahya does have a hard road ahead which is integration and family unification, and that requires money. Yahya has been volunteering but has not been given a work permit and so he's got to build his life again and it's not going to be easy," Khan said. 

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