Officials in Canada say they have confirmed the identities of four Indian citizens whose frozen bodies were found in Manitoba near the Canadian-United States border last week.
The Indian High Commission in Ottawa on Thursday issued a statement saying the four killed were Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, a 39-year-old man, Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel, a 37-year-old woman, Vihangi Jagdishkumar Patel, an 11-year-old girl and Djadishkar, a three-year-old girl. boy.
Close relatives of the family have been informed, the Supreme Commission said in a statement, stressing the need to “ensure that migration and mobility are safe and legal and that such tragedies do not recur”.
Investigators say the family of four tried to cross the border on January 19 during severe winter weather and died from exposure.
Officials said they had separated from the group of 18 and were likely to be swept away by the blizzard, leading to a tragedy that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described as “mind-boggling”.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said it believed the family arrived in Canada on Jan. 12, first arriving in Toronto and then traveling to Emerson, Manitoba, around Jan. 18.
No vehicles were abandoned near the border, suggesting someone left them and left, said Rob Hill, a criminal operations officer.
A special team led by a senior consular officer from the Consulate General of India is in Manitoba to help with Canadian investigations and offer services to victims.
The Manitoba RCMP said it had found the four bodies near Emerson after U.S. Border Patrol agents advised them to pick up a group of U.S. Indian nationals.
One of the men, Steve Shand of Delton, Florida, was found with a backpack full of baby items. He told investigators he was carrying the backpack to a group that had separated from them.
Investigators said they believed the deaths were linked to a human trafficking scheme.
Shand faces charges of transportation or attempted “transportation of illegal aliens.” He was released on parole on Monday.
Meanwhile, six people running a travel and tourism company in the western state of Gujarat have been arrested in connection with the death, AK Jhala police officer in the Gandhinagar state capital said.
“Now we are trying to catch the traffickers of people who managed to send this family and others abroad through illegal channels,” he added.
Ashish Bhatia, director general of the Gujarat police, said investigators were trying to determine if there was a travel agent in India who had helped the group.
“The link to human trafficking is deep, often involving local politicians,” said Jala, adding that people are even selling their land and homes to finance their migration to the United States or Canada.
Canada is a sought-after destination for Indians facing huge unemployment at home.
However, crossings into the United States from Canada are relatively rare: detentions of migrants trying to cross port ports on the US-Canada border from 6806 in 2009 to 916 in 2021.
The CBP detained 339 Indians trying to cross the United States at the northern border in 2019, 129 in 2020 and 41 last year.
In contrast, the RCMP detained 16,503 asylum seekers crossing north between border crossings in 2019.
The seven Indian migrants captured by US authorities last week may be eligible for visas if they cooperate in the prosecution of Shand, said Vina Ayer, executive director of the Minnesota Center for Immigration Law.