It is estimated that around 1.5 million immigrants have crossed the Mediterranean trying to seek asylum in Europe during 2016, mostly fleeing civil war from middle east countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. From those 1.5 million, 4000 died (est. 2015).
One of those immigrants that never made it was Alan Kurdi, the three year old boy that drowned on a beach near Bodrum in Turkey, attempting to reach Europe and eventually Canada along with his family after two failed attempts to cross thru Greece.
The picture of Alan’s dead body on a Turkish beach shook Canada already embroiled in the middle of an election campaign, as her aunt Tina Kurdi had previously immigrated to British Columbia and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship had denied previous refugee requests for the Kurdi Family.
I am of the belief that the picture of Alan was the last nail on the coffin that brought down the Conservative Government of Stephen Harper and it was quickly used by the Liberals to assure Justin Trudeau’s win with the promise to bring thousands of refugees from Syria. (Estimated at 40,000 from Nov. 2015 to January 2017).
Fast forward to the 2016 United States Presidential campaign and the (unexpected?, unbelievable?) triumph of Donald Trump that has seen after it’s inauguration and first (erratic) month of government, mass travel bans to seven Muslim countries, threats of war with Mexico to fight the “Bad Hombres”, and mass deportations of illegal immigrants.
This high level of intolerance and xenophobia south of the border, has prompted people (425 thru the Quebec / NY border, and 21 a weekend thru the Manitoba / North Dakota border, just in January) to cross illegally the Canadian border, literally jumping from taxi cabs and walking thru the border in harsh winter conditions.
One of them, Seidu Mohammed from Ghana have lost limbs and fingers due to severe frostbite after walking for several hours in -20C temperatures thru Manitoba’s farming fields, finally rescued by a truck driver.
If we can estimate that in just the first month of Trump’s government a little less than a 1000 people have tried to cross the border illegally, how many more will try to cross when the weather conditions are less risky, bringing in the potential of a humanitarian tragedy?
Myself an immigrant, I am of the firm belief that Canada needs immigrants and that these immigrants need to effectively integrate to Canadian society, but the desperation of entire families crossing under harsh winter conditions seems to be only the prelude of a humanitarian tragedy that Canada will have difficulty to manage.
Canada urgently needs immigrants. It is estimated that by 2035 Canada will be suffering from a demographic crisis just as today’s in Japan, where there is simply not enough young people to support the old, along with declining fertility rates.
And the world needs Canada, as an standing beacon of hope, tolerance and acceptance, to all those refugee families that literally risk life and limb pursuing freedom and the dream of a better future.