The two Ghanaian men who lost their fingers to extreme frostbite during an illegal Christmas Eve dash across the Canada-U.S. border south of Winnipeg say they hope to spend the rest of their lives in the city.

The pair met on their perilous journey north. Seidu Mohammed, 24, and Razak Ioial, 34, have since formed a tight bond over their painful recoveries and shared desire to permanently join the community they risked their lives to reach.

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada is expected to decide if they will be allowed to remain in Canada sometime in June. Both men were granted extended stays while their injuries healed.

“It has been a very long journey for us,” Ioial told CTV Winnipeg on Wednesday. “Manitoba is our home now. Winnipeg is like a house to us. We met a lot of good people. They felt for us. They felt for the situation that we are in.”

Facing deportation in the U.S., he and Mohammed hired a taxi to drive them to the North Dakota border near Emerson, Man., on Dec. 24. The men aimlessly walked for 10 hours in freezing, snowy weather -- losing their hats and mitts along the way. A Good Samaritan truck driver spotted them beside the road and called 911.

“We were crying because we met a man who saved our lives,” Mohammed told CTV Winnipeg in January.

The odds of them being allowed to stay in Winnipeg may be slim. Canada has an agreement with the U.S. stating that anyone who wants to make a refugee claim must do so in the first safe country they arrive in.

Mohammed eventually lost all of his fingers and both thumbs to severe frostbite. Doctors were able to save Ioial’s right thumb and part of his left one, but all of his fingers were lost as well.

Four months later, the men are well into their recovery. But even the simplest tasks remain a struggle.

“You want to button your shirt, you want to do up your zipper, and you can’t,” Ioial said. “A simple thing that you want to do, you cannot do it.”

Doctors used grafted skin from Mohammed’s thigh to repair the damage to his disfigured hands. He is fighting an infection in the incision.

“Now they have opened it again four inches. But my thigh is healing now,” he said.

Mohammed told CTV Winnipeg in January that he fled his West African homeland over fear of persecution because he is bisexual. Male same-sex acts are illegal in Ghana. A first offence is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Uncertainty about their future in Canada has been difficult to cope with. But both men say the arrival of spring weather on the Prairies has lifted their spirits.

Mohammed says he is looking forward to playing and coaching soccer once his leg recovers. He also hopes to be strong enough by late May to fast for Ramadan.

Ioial spends much of his time volunteering with newcomers at the Canadian Women’s Institute, and hopes to one day find a career in business.

“We know we can do it. We are young people,” he said. “We know we can be in this society. We can do everything that those who have fingers can do.”

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/asylum-seekers-who-lost-fingers-to-frostbite-desperate-to-stay-1.3418660?cid=SocialFlow%3Afacebook