Man’s trek to Canada shocks friends

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - LAU­REN KRUGEL

MIN­NEAPO­LIS — Saci­ido Shaie says some­thing seemed to be weigh­ing on her friend Mo­hamed Badal in the days be­fore he van­ished.

Badal, a So­mali man who spent months trekking four con­ti­nents be­fore land­ing in the United States, had been pre­par­ing to ap­peal a re­jected asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tion when Don­ald Trump be­came pres­i­dent.

“For an en­tire week he was anx­ious, he was scared,” Shaie says over tea at Daalo Grill, a Min­neapo­lis East African restau­rant where she, Badal and a big group of friends would reg­u­larly hang out. “You can read from his face.” The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hard­line views on im­mi­gra­tion have rat­tled many in the Mid­west­ern city’s large So­mali com­mu­nity, re­gard­less of their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus, says Shaie, a com­mu­nity ac­tivist.

Trump sin­gled out So­mali new­com­ers at a cam­paign rally in Min­neapo­lis two days be­fore Novem­ber’s elec­tion, say­ing the city had “suf­fered enough” from their pres­ence. So­ma­lia was also among seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries tar­geted in a travel ban im­posed sud­denly last month, which has since been halted in court.

Shaie says her friend, who had been au­tho­rized to work night shifts in a ware­house, feared he could be ar­rested and de­ported at any mo­ment.

She no­ticed Badal hadn’t stopped by Daalo Grill in a while and when she tried call­ing, his phone was dis­con­nected. No one else in their cir­cle of friends seemed to know where he was.

When Badal fi­nally reached Shaie, he was in Win­nipeg.

He told her he walked for hours in the freez­ing cold through a snowy field in or­der to cross from North Dakota into Man­i­toba.

He left his car in Min­neapo­lis, so Shaie fig­ures he must have got­ten a lift to a town near the bor­der.

By the time Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties found Badal, one of his legs was swollen from the cold and he could barely speak.

“He told me that he thought he was go­ing to die,” Shaie says, re­count­ing their con­ver­sa­tion a few days af­ter he en­tered Canada.

Badal was among dozens of refuge-seek­ers found trudg­ing through snow-cov­ered prairie along the bor­der near the town of Emer­son, Man., in re­cent weeks. Most of the peo­ple are from So­ma­lia, Ghana and other African coun­tries.

There’s noth­ing new about peo­ple es­chew­ing of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ings be­tween the U.S. and Canada, though RCMP say the num­bers have been on the rise in re­cent months.

The tac­tic is a way to get around the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Coun­try Agree­ment, which would cause any­one who had al­ready ap­plied for refugee sta­tus in the U.S. to be turned away at an of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ing in Canada. But if a per­son crosses some­where else and ap­plies as a refugee, the case is heard by Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties.

It’s a dan­ger­ous gam­ble to jump the bor­der in the win­ter. Two men lost fin­gers to frost­bite af­ter a 10hour trek across Man­i­toba fields of waist-high snow in sub-zero tem­per­a­tures over Christ­mas.

Since Badal was found by po­lice in Canada, he can stay in the coun­try while his pa­per­work is sorted out.

Shaie says her friend is do­ing fine and has since trav­elled to Toronto, where he has fam­ily.

She wishes she knew be­fore­hand what he was plan­ning to do.

“I would have said ‘you’re crazy.’ I wouldn’t have let him go,” she says.

JONATHAN HAY­WARD, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Saci­ido Shaie, an ac­tivist in Min­neapo­lis’ So­mali com­mu­nity, shows a photo of her­self and her friend Mo­hamed Badal, who walked to Canada re­cently. Shaie says Badal was afraid he would be de­ported to So­ma­lia, so he fled.

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