Thursday, May 26

Death of a family on the US-Canadian border underscores the desperate journeys of migrants | human trafficking


The death of four members of an Indian family on the US-Canada border has once again highlighted the perilous journeys families are willing to risk for a better life, and the groups that profit from their desperation.

Police in Canada announced Thursday that the victims, who included an infant and toddler, likely froze to death while trying to cross into the United States during a snowstorm. Another seven survived and were intercepted by the police.

“It was an absolutely amazing story. It is so tragic to see such a family die, victims of human traffickers … and people who took advantage of their desire to build a better life,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Friday. “That is why we are doing everything we can to deter people from crossing the border irregularly or illegally. We know there are great risks in doing so.”

India’s High Commissioner to Canada, Ajay Bisaria, described the deaths as a “serious tragedy” and Announced that a consular team was traveling to Manitoba to assist in the investigation. Ambassador of India to the United States saying Chicago consulate staff were also on their way to Minnesota.

US officials announced the arrest of Steve Shand, who faces human trafficking charges. Shand, 47, will appear in court on January 24.

“The investigation into the deaths of the four people in Canada is ongoing along with an investigation into a larger human smuggling operation that Shand is suspected of being a part of,” said John Stanley, a special agent with Security Investigations. National, in court documents. .

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On Wednesday, investigators with the US Department of Homeland Security acted on a tip from a snowplow driver who saw Shand’s truck stuck in a ditch during the snowstorm, according to court documents. The driver helped Shand free the vehicle, and Shand said he was on his way to Winnipeg to visit relatives. Authorities say it was the second time he had been to the area.

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When officers stopped the car near the border crossing in Pembina, North Dakota, they found two Indian nationals with Shand and later intercepted a group of five. They all spoke Gujarati, a language from the western region of the country. One told officials that he spent a large amount of money to come to Canada on a bogus student visa and that he planned to visit an uncle in Chicago.

In preparation for their trip, the group donned new winter clothing, including parkas, boots and gloves. They, along with Shand, had black balaclavas. Officers also found evidence suggesting a baby was traveling with the group, but when they couldn’t find the child, they notified Canadian police.

While the prairie landscape the group traversed is largely flat, the expansive grain fields are deceptively dangerous in the winter. Cold winds whip through relentlessly and blowing snow drastically reduces visibility. Deep snowdrifts make movement slow and tedious. All these difficulties are compounded in the dark, when it is believed that the family tried to cross.

Court documents in the United States also gave a glimpse of the brutal cold endured by the survivors. A woman stopped breathing while she was being transported by border officials and required partial amputation of her hand due to frostbite. Another was also treated by freezing.

“Smugglers only care about the money they stand to make and have no regard for lives lost,” Anthony Good, a chief sector border patrol agent in Grand Forks, said in a statement.

The deaths have rocked the community of Emerson, a rural farming town of fewer than 700 people.

“Just try to figure out why there would be that kind of desperation to cross the border in such terrible weather conditions. Crossing the border is dangerous at best,” Dave Carlson, a local official with Emerson-Franklin Township in Manitoba, told a local radio station.

The region has been the scene of numerous crossings in recent years, although most of them came from the United States to Canada after the election of former President Donald Trump.

In December 2016, two men lost their fingers to severe frostbite after traversing waist-deep snow during a blizzard while crossing into Manitoba. A few months later, a woman died of hypothermia near the border on the US side. Three years ago, a pregnant woman was rescued near the border after she became trapped in a snowbank and went into labor.

This week’s tragic deaths serve as a reminder of the risks families are willing to take, said Rema Jamous Imseis, UNHCR’s Canadian representative, in a statement.

“Whatever the circumstances, no one should have to choose such a dangerous journey.”




www.theguardian.com

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