'Canadians will welcome you': Refugees begin long trek north via Mexico
With U.S. President Donald Trump doubling down on his anti-terrorism immigration policies that target migrants and refugees in the U.S. illegally, the focus has shifted to how the changes are affecting people fleeing conflict zones around the world.
And as the route to Europe becomes more treacherous many refugees are aiming for the Americas.
The months-long journey north
CBC reporter Evan Dyer tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that South American countries are seeing an uptick in refugees from Africa and south Asia. They're not making refugee claims in South America, it's the starting point for a months-long journey north.
"The critical factor for them is that you can land in several American countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia without a visa," Dyer says.
"They're able to get a toehold on the American continents in a way they can't in Europe, and then that allows them to do the rest of the journey over land."
Dyer shares the story of a refugee in Mexico city named Abdikadir Ahmed Omar. He was a translator working with United Nations officials in Somalia who says he was forced to flee the country after the al-Qaeda-linked group al Shabaab found out he was working with "infidels." They shot up his home, and local police said they couldn't protect him.
"If Shabaab wants to kill you, they will kill you," Omar says.
"If the government itself cannot secure itself, they cannot secure me. So the only option for me was to leave."
Omar fled south from his hometown of Kismayo across the border into Kenya. From there he flew to Togo, and then onto Brazil.
Many smugglers rob refugees along the way
The trip is usually made on foot and takes three to five months. Smugglers charge as much as $12,000, not including the flights to South America. And many rob refugees along the way.
"Because you're a foreigner, it's very easy," says Omar.
"They had a gun, and if someone has a gun, he can overpower [you] … The smugglers, they work together. They know the area much better than you, they are the locals, so they have the upper hand ... and no one wants to take the risk of going in front of a gun."
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WelcomeToCanada?src=hash">#WelcomeToCanada</a>—@JustinTrudeau
Dyer tells Tremonti Omar knows he still has a difficult trek ahead of him, made even more difficult since President Trump's crackdown on refugees and the southern border. But he says Justin Trudeau's message that Canada is open to refugees really resonates.
"I follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube," Omar says of the prime minister. He said Canada's new Ahmed Hussan, Canada's new Minister of Immigration and Refugees, is a great role model.
"He's a kind of success story, where refugees are not a burden but can be something positive."
Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.
This segment was produced by the CBC's Evan Dyer, Lisa laventure and The Current's Lara O'Brien and Kristin Nelson.