Human smuggling ops: Four Indians found dead at Canada-US border
Four Indian nationals including an infant died from exposure to severe cold on the Canadian side of the border with the United States after they were left abandoned in what appears to be an organised human smuggling operation.
On Wednesday morning, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in the province of Manitoba received “concerning information” from their counterparts that the US Customs and Border Protection (USBP) had apprehended a group of individuals who had crossed into the US from Canada, near the town of Emerson in Manitoba.
According to a release from the Manitoba RCMP, they also indicated that one of the adults had items meant for an infant but that no infant was with the group.
A search began and four hours later, at about 1.30pm local time, RCMP officers found the bodies of three individuals were located on the Canadian side of the border, close to the town of Emerson. “Fearing there may be additional victims, officers continued their search and located the body of an additional male, believed at this time to be in his mid-teens,” the release stated.
According to a statement issued by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, law enforcement encountered five Indian nationals approximately a quarter mile south of the Canadian border that day. They explained that they had walked across the border “expecting to be picked up by someone” and “estimated they had been walking around for over 11 hours”.
One of them was in possession of a backpack he was carrying for a family of four Indian nationals “that had earlier walked with his group but had become separated during the night. The backpack contained children’s clothes, a diaper, toys, and some children’s medication”.
Later, the release said, USBP received a report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that four bodies were found frozen just inside the Canadian side of the international border. The bodies were tentatively identified as the family of four that was separated.
One person, a 47-year-old resident of Florida Steve Shand was arrested by US authorities for allegedly “smuggling undocumented foreign nationals”.
The four dead persons include the infant, a male teenager, an adult male and an adult female. They have yet to be identified.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Manitoba RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy said, “We are very concerned this attempted crossing may have been facilitated in some way and that these individuals, including an infant, were left on their own in the middle of a blizzard when the weather hovered around -35°C factoring in the wind. These victims faced not only the cold weather, but also endless fields, large snowdrifts and complete darkness.”