Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to take action against the human traffickers after four Indians, including an infant, were found to be dead while trying to illegally cross the US-Canada border in a freezing cold temperature.
He said that Canada is working very closely with the United States to stop smuggling and help people “taking unacceptable risks.”
“It was an absolutely mind-blowing story. It’s so tragic to see a family die like that, victims of human traffickers…and of people who took advantage of their desire to build a better life,” Trudeau said.
“This is why we are doing all we can to discourage people from crossing the border in an irregular or illicit manner. We know there are great risks in doing so,” he added.
The bodies of four people — two adults, a teen and an infant — were found on the Canadian side of the US/Canada border near Emerson on Wednesday.
“It would almost be like a lunar-type landscape and you can become lost or disoriented very quickly in those kinds of conditions, especially as you’re beginning to freeze and no doubt panic,” Trudeau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
“There’s no lights up there. You would have probably been in close to zero visibility.”
Reacting to the human tragedy, India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar expressed shock over the incident and asked India’s envoys to the US and Canada to respond to the situation.
“Shocked by the report that 4 Indian nationals, including an infant have lost their lives at the Canada-US border. Have asked our Ambassadors in the US and Canada to urgently respond to the situation,” he said in a tweet.
US authorities have detained eight people, including an American citizen, for alleged involvement in human smuggling.
Indian authorities are working with their Canadian counterparts to investigate the death of the Indian nationals during an apparent human smuggling operation to take people from the Canadian side to the US.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) found the bodies of the four Indians – an infant, a male teenager, an adult male and an adult female – on Wednesday, shortly after the US Customs and Border Protection (USBP) apprehended a group of Indians who allegedly crossed into the US from Canada near the town of Emerson in Manitoba.
People familiar with the matter said on Saturday that US authorities had detained a US citizen and seven other people without proper documentation for allegedly being involved in human smuggling activity. Two of these eight people were hospitalized with cold-related injuries, they said.
Earlier reports had identified the US citizen detained by authorities as Steve Shand, a 47-year-old resident of Florida.
A team sent by the Indian consulate in Toronto to Manitoba is liaising with Canadian authorities to render consular help regarding the four dead people. The consulate and the high commission in Ottawa are in touch with Canada’s provincial and federal authorities to ascertain more details about the incident.
In the US, the Indian consulate in Chicago has sent a team to Minneapolis to coordinate with local authorities and to provide consular assistance. This team has sought consular access to the detained people.
The consulate and the embassy in Washington are also in touch with the US department of justice and USBP.