Refugees who had previously planned to seek asylum in the United States are rerouting to Canada during the height of winter. At least 21 people crossed the US-Canadian border illegally Saturday (Feb. 11), arriving before dawn at Emerson-Franklin, a small border town with a population of 700, BBC reports. About 60 people have made the trip in the past three weeks.
This come despite an injunction by a US federal court to halt the executive order of US president Donald Trump banning travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries.
Some asylum seekers are leaving the US for Canada after losing hope of securing a legal status under the Trump administration. In contrast, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has made public statements welcoming refugees.
According to the BBC, asylum seekers have entered Canada through the border at Minnesota, North Dakota and New York. Many take taxi from nearby towns, costing between $200 to $300 per person, and then walk into Canadian soil. Photos taken by a Reuters photographer on Feb. 13 and 14 show men, women and children dragging their luggage across the snow, walking from Champlain, New York to Hemmingford, Quebec.
The extreme cold of the midwest winter has made the trek treacherous. Refugees, who come from countries who have never seen snow have had to trek across fields in knee-deep, or even waist-deep drifts. At least two Somalians have had their hands and fingers amputated due to frostbite.
These refugees hoping to get asylum status from Canada have to cross the border illegally in order to skirt around the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement, which states that people seeking refugee protection must file their claim in the first country they arrive in, unless they qualify for certain exceptions. They risk being turned away by border agents if they enter Canada legally from the US.