Two Ghanaians lose their fingers while crossing from US to Canada illegally
After being denied refugee status in the US, two Ghanaians crossed the Canada-US border illegally and lost their fingers to frigid temperature.
Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal, who walked miles across snow-covered fields lost parts of their bodies to frostbite during the journey.
Below is how BBC reported their story:
On Christmas Eve, they found themselves struggling through a waist-deep field of snow in a rash night-time bid to sneak across the Canada-US border.
The two men had met just few hours before at a Minneapolis bus station and both faced deportation back to Ghana after being denied refugee status in the US.
They had heard through a network of other refugees and African expats that if they could get into Canada, they had a second shot at asylum in the north.
The path was straightforward: find a ride to the border from Minneapolis, MN or Grand Forks, ND, avoid patrols until you reach Canadian soil, and then turn yourself into Canadian authorities as an asylum seeker.
Iyal and Mohammed decided to make the trek together, and paid US$200 each to a cab driver who dropped them near the international boundary. They kept to the road until they neared the border.
Soon they had lost their gloves in the snow. The wind stole Mohammed's baseball cap.
By the time they reached Highway 75 in Manitoba, their hands had frozen into claws. They could not reach the phones in their pockets to dial 9-1-1 as planned. Mohammed's eyes had frozen shut.
|The view towards the US from Emerson, Manitoba. Photo by BBC Sport|
The only vehicles on the road before dawn on Christmas were transport trucks ferrying cargo between the US and Canada. Many passed, flashing their high beams at the two before blowing by, until one stopped to give them assistance.
They have been receiving treatment at a specialised burn unit in a Winnipeg hospital since that 10-hour journey. Both had most of their fingers amputated due to the severe frostbite.
Iyal says nurses had to chip away at the snow and ice between Mohammed's fingers.
Their story has brought attention to a phenomenon that is not new but has been growing steadily in recent years. And it has not deterred others from making the cross-border trip. Record numbers of people have crossed near Emerson in the past few weeks.
It is not just Manitoba. Quebec and British Columbia are also seeing more and more people illegally crossing the border to make refugee claims.
In the prairie province, the influx is centred on Emerson, a municipality of about 700 people that borders Minnesota.
The rural town, surrounded by farm fields, is about 625km (390 miles) up the Interstate from Minneapolis, which has the largest Somali population in North America. Word about the Emerson crossing has spread within the expat community, as far as down to Brazil.
"We've always had people jumping the borders, for, I don't know, 30, 40, 50 years. Back then, it was people running away from something - usually the law," says town official Greg Janzen.
But in recent years it has been mostly asylum seekers, hailing mainly from Somalia but also Ghana, Djibouti, and Ethiopia, who are finding their way across. Community workers say most have been denied refugee status in the US.
Many have been met with generosity.
Yahya Samatar, a former human rights worker in Somalia, fled threats from Islamist al-Shabab militants and sought refugee status in the US, where he spent seven months in an immigration detention centre.
The US denied his status but said it was too dangerous to deport him back to war-torn Somalia, and released him with a warning that he could be sent back anytime.
Like Iyal and Mohammed, he heard about the backdoor into Canada, and found himself in August 2015 on the banks of the Red River, which runs through Manitoba and between North Dakota and Minnesota.
He stripped to his underwear and swam across. Shivering and covered in mud, he then walked into Emerson, where a resident gave him a sweater and called border services.
"I was given clothes, I was given food, everything" by border agents, says Samatar, who has since received refugee status and lives in Winnipeg.
But now in Emerson, a wariness is emerging.
The municipality that has opened its doors to those seeking refuge is wondering how far town resources will be stretched and what happens if someone who comes across poses a danger.