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by Mona Awwad and Nandika Ravi

In this OMNI Arabic news series, we look into experiences of recent migrants to Canada, their journeys, their motivation, their settlement and their perspectives on current refugee crisis which continue to unfold across the globe. The first part of the series highlights the experience of an irregulated migrant’s entry into Canada and where Canada stands in terms of its image and reputation in the context of migration.

From Europe to North America, thousands of individuals trapped on international borders have turned into numbers in refugee records; but behind those numbers lay stories of struggle, hope, and a longing for a better and secure future.  Ahmed (name changed to protect his identity) crossed the U.S. -Canada border two years ago and was among the reported 50,000 illegal immigrants who crossed Roxham Road into Canada.

“I think it’s like my life has changed; so now I feel like it’s safe, I feel like more welcomed; from the people outside, from the government; they are trying to help us establishing our life and settle down,” he said.

Ahmed was a student in the U.S. when the war in Libya began, so he chose not to take his children back to a place where death is a daily reality. However, his attempts to remain in the US failed. He said the conditions to apply for a Canadian visa were difficult, so he was left with a last resort- illegal border crossing into Canada, which to him, and many migrants, was a more hopeful place.

“I think everybody knows how the Canadian government is treating and dealing with immigration around the world; I think Canada is on top of the countries who welcoming the immigrants,” Ahmed added.

The Supreme Court of Canada is currently over seeing a case on the constitutionality of the Safe Third Country Agreement, which allows it to turn back asylum-seekers entering the country through border crossings. Laura Madokoro, an associate professor at Carleton University believes that Ahmed wouldn’t have been allowed into Canada if he was crossing today.

“What happens at the borders is not always great; the safe third country agreement is a problem.”

Laura Madokoro| Associate professor at Carleton University speaks to Mona Awwad

“Because Canada talks so much about its humanitarian traditions, it is really hard for citizens to recognize when there’s been violence and harm done internally; it becomes really hard for people to reconcile the good Canada and the Canada that has done harm,” Madokoro added.

Prof. Madokoro feels that Canada is seen as a more welcoming country, from a wider international lens.

Like Ahmed, hundreds of migrants in Canada have made this life changing decision due to the severity of their situation in their homeland.

“Because we celebrate resettlement and arrival we forget that people often don’t want to be displaced and would like to return to their homes,” Madokoro said.