A man is recovering after a near-death journey illegally crossing the border into Canada in freezing conditions.

On Dec. 24, Seidu Mohammed, 24, who is from Ghana in West Africa crossed the border on foot near Emerson, Man. with another man from the same home country.

Both men have severe frostbite on both their hands, and doctors have told them they will lose their fingers.

Mohammed said he was in a United States detention for close to a year. After his release, he decided to head north to Canada. He said he's bisexual, and fled Ghana fearing for his life.

He and the other man walked for 10 hours in freezing and snowy weather, losing their hats and mitts, and their way.

“All our arms were frozen, our feet frozen, we can’t see,” said Mohammed. “We were waving for cars to stop, so that they can help us to call 911, or immigration, but nobody but stopped.

Near Leteiller, Man., along Highway 75, Mohammed said a trucker pulled over to help.

“When we met him, we were crying, because we met a man who saved our life,” he explained.

Winnipeg immigration and refugee lawyer Bashir Khan has represented about 125 migrants who have illegally crossed the border into Manitoba in the past four years.

Khan said the majority of them make the dangerous trip after enduring months in American detention facilities, and not getting a fair chance at being given refugee status in the Unites States.

“They were not given a lawyer because they couldn’t afford one, legal aid there does not cover a lot,” he said. “They’re in jail because the U.S. chose to detain them, not because they are criminals.”

He said refugees are not allowed to call home and gather evidence for their case.

Khan explained that when a U.S. claim is rejected, the claimant must be released in six months – then they report to an enforcement of officer of the Department of Homeland Security, before facing deportation.

“That’s when they realized that’s there is the ‘Great White North’. There is an underground railroad. Let’s go to Canada and see if we can get a fair hearing, because they did not get a fair hearing under the U.S. justice system,” Khan added.

It could be months before the two men find out if they can stay in Canada permanently.

The Ghanaian Union of Manitoba said because of their frostbite they've been given an extension to fill out the necessary paperwork to file a refugee claim.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada:
In an email to CTV News Wednesday, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said the transportation method used to arrive in Canada does not impact a refugee’s claim.

“If a person is eligible to make a claim for asylum, their case is referred to the independent Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). Claims are decided on the basis of an assessment of the merits of the individual’s claim based on the risks they face in their home country,” said communications advisor Kevin Ramkissoon.

Canada has an agreement with the U.S. called the Safe Third Country Agreement, which states people who want to make a refugee claim must do so in the first safe country they arrive.  It means if you enter Canada at a land border from the U.S., you cannot make a refugee claim in Canada.