Somali man who had long journey to escape homeland hopes for refuge in Winnipeg

By on August 11, 2015


Flag of Somalia (Shutterstock)
Flag of Somalia (Shutterstock)

WINNIPEG — A Somali man who has endured a year-long, harrowing journey to escape his homeland is hoping that Winnipeg will now provide his chance at freedom.

Yahya Samatar, 32, an aid worker, says he had to leave his children behind with relatives and flee his country after he was threatened by the terror group Al-Shabab.

First he flew from Somalia to Brazil, then hiked through the jungle to Colombia, then up through Central America and to the United States, where he was detained.

Facing deportation, Samatar headed north until he found himself on the shore of the Red River.

Although he wasn’t exactly sure where he was, he believed crossing the river would land him on Canadian soil so he jumped in and swam across through the fast and frigid waters, wondering if he would encounter crocodiles as he would in rivers at home.

Emerging on the other side, Samatar walked across several farms before meeting a Good Samaritan who gave him clothes and linked him with the Canadian Border Services Agency.

“Actually, it was quite complicated, but sometimes you have to take a risk to save your life — that’s what I was doing,” says Samatar.

Hospitality House’s Karin Gordon, who helps refugees settle in Winnipeg, says Samatar’s background as an aid worker makes his chances of being allowed to stay in Canada pretty good.

“His life was truly under tremendous threat, and if he goes back to Somalia he will a dead man very shortly,” says Gordon.

Officials with the refugee ministry at Hospitality House say refugee claims in Manitoba are on the rise.

They say there were 56 in the past four months — the same number as all claims submitted last year.