Eight detained in US following death of 4 Indians in human smuggling operation
US authorities have detained eight people, including an American citizen, for alleged involvement in human smuggling following the death of four Indian nationals from exposure to severe cold on the Canadian side of the border with the United States.
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 hospitalised 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.
The people cited above said the four dead people and the others detained without proper documentation in the US appeared to be Indian nationals. “However, further efforts are underway to identify them and confirm their nationalities. Post-mortem of the victims is likely to be carried out on January 24,” one of the people said.
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.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar had on Friday directed the Indian envoys to the US and Canada to respond to the situation. Ajay Bisaria, India’s high commissioner to Canada, described the incident as a “grave tragedy” and said Indian authorities will work with their Canadian counterparts to investigate the disturbing event.
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