Indian family frozen to death attempting to illegally cross US-Canada border

Human traffickers had taken advantage of a family’s desire to seek a better life.

Four individuals believed to be Indian nationals have been found frozen to death at the U.S. border in Canada. 

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) found the deceased, – a man, woman, teenager and baby, in a field near Emerson, Manitoba, on Wednesday.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told media:

“I know that what I am about to share is going to be difficult for many people to hear. It is an absolute and heartbreaking tragedy.”

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Ms MacLatchy said that these individuals were victims.

“[They were] left on their own, in the middle of a blizzard when the weather hovered around minus 35 C , factoring [in] the wind.” 

India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar tweeted his shock.

“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.”

A Indian consular team was travelling to Minnesota on Friday to assist in the matter.

India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Taranjit Singh Sandhu said on Twitter in reference to Mr Jaishankar’s tweet.

Another team of Indian officials was on its way to Manitoba, India’s Ambassador to Canada, Ajay Bisaria said on Twitter.

In a news conference, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his government was working with the United States to prevent people from taking such unacceptable risks.

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Mr. Trudeau said that human traffickers had taken advantage of a family’s desire to seek a better life.

“This is why we are doing all we can to discourage people from crossing the border in an irregular or illicit manner.” 

While one American citizen has been arrested in connection with the case, seven other Indians were detained by police in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Justice charged a 47 year old Florida man, Steve Shand, with human smuggling.

Mr Shand, who was driving a 15-passenger van, had been arrested just south of the U.S.-Canada border on Wednesday as per the U.S. Attorney’s office.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statement said:

“… Agents encountered five additional people walking on a nearby road experiencing severe signs of hypothermia and frostbite due to exposure to the extreme cold and wind chill. Agents immediately rendered aid, called for Emergency Medical Services and began transporting two of the individuals to an area hospital.”

Amongst the five detained, one person had a backpack that belonged to fellow traveller who had been separated from him.

As per official statement, this bag contained children’s clothes and medicines, a diaper and some toys.

Two of the surviving Indians were taken to the hospital.

A man was discharged and is now back in the custody of U.S. authorities while a woman has been shifted to a hospital in St Paul, Minnesota for advanced care.

Ms MacLatchy urged people not to try the crossing:

“I do understand that for some there may be a great need to get to another country, but this is not the way. You will be risking your life and the lives of the people you care about if you try it.”

Officials are investigating a possible human smuggling operation.