Avenue 0: How U.S. asylum seekers are finding their way to British Columbia

March 28, 2017

CBC News | Brenna Rose

Abdul and his family boarded a flight from New York to Seattle at the end of February and then took a taxi to the Washington border town Blaine.

Pushing a stroller with their newborn baby inside on that town’s A Street, they crossed an unguarded, unfenced park onto 0 Avenue in Surrey, B.C.

Then police arrived.

‘We walked around five to seven minutes and then [they] caught us,” said Abdul, whose last name and identity of his family is being withheld out of concern for their safety.

“They didn’t shout at us, they were very humble and very calm officers.”

Abdul’s family have been living in Vancouver since. They’re part of 291 asylum seekers apprehended by the RCMP in B.C. in the first two months of 2017 โ€” 130 more than Manitoba, where refugees have attracted international coverage.

“We have seen a rise in the numbers of people coming, especially families crossing the border,” said Mario Ayala, director of the Inland Refugee Society.

“The resources are the same, [but] the needs are growing … it’s hard for us to help these people properly.”

Chose Canada after hearing Trudeau speak

The last year has been a whirlwind for Abdul and his family. Their journey started in their home country of Pakistan, where Abdul admits life was good.

“We had good jobs over there, our own house. We had all kinds of happiness,” he said.

But the family decided to move to the United States because of political persecution for their liberal beliefs, and say they went through the appropriate channels to obtain American visas.

They settled in Brooklyn, their son started going to school, and soon Abdul’s wife had another son; an American citizen.

“American people and America is a good country, I like and respect that country,” said Adbul.

However, he says shortly after Donald Trump became president, things changed. Trump signed an executive order restricting entry to the United States for travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries in late January, leading to chaos and confusion at airports across North America.

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