External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday expressed shock over the death of a family of four Indian nationals at the US-Canada border in what officials believe was a failed crossing attempt during a blizzard, and Instructed the Indian ambassadors and asked the US and Canada to respond immediately to the situation.
The Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said Thursday that the bodies of four people, “two adults, a juvenile and an infant,” were found on the Canadian side of the US-Canada border near Emerson on Wednesday.
Jaishankar tweeted, “Shocked to report the death of 4 Indian nationals, including an infant, at the Canada-US border. Asked our ambassadors in the US and Canada to respond immediately to the situation.”
Jaishankar spoke to India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu and India’s High Commissioner to Canada Ajay Bisaria.
Ambassador Sandhu said that this is an unfortunate and sad incident.
“We are in touch with US officials on their ongoing investigation. A consular team from @IndiainChicago is traveling to Minnesota today to provide coordination and support as needed,” he tweeted.
India’s High Commissioner to Canada Bisaria said that this is a serious tragedy. An Indian consular team is traveling from @IndiainToronto to Manitoba today to coordinate and assist, he tweeted.
“We will work with the Canadian authorities to investigate these disturbing incidents,” he wrote.
US Border Patrol (USBP) officers in North Dakota intercepted a 15-passenger van south of the Canadian border on Wednesday, according to court documents.
The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota issued a release late Thursday and said the driver, identified as Steve Shand, 47, of Florida, was arrested for human trafficking in connection with the incident.
The Justice Department said law enforcement officials also determined that the two undocumented were Indian citizens.
Court documents said law enforcement officers discovered cases of plastic cups, bottled water, bottled juices and snacks in the rear of the passenger van.
They also searched for drinks and snacks in Shand’s name for the van and rental agreement receipts dated January 18, 2022, with the return date listed for January 20, 2022.
As they were taking the three back to the Border Patrol station in North Dakota, officers were walking past another group of five Indian nationals.
He told them that they had gone across the border and expected to be picked up by someone.
The group said they estimated they had been on the way for more than 11 hours, and were on their way to an unemployed gas plant in St. Vincent, Minnesota.
One of the group members had a bag that was not his.
He told officials that he was carrying bags for a family of four Indian nationals who had earlier accompanied his group but got separated at night.
The bag contained baby clothes, a diaper, toys and some children’s medicine.
According to court documents, on January 19, USBP received a report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that four bodies had been found frozen inside the Canadian side of the international border.
The bodies were tentatively identified as that of a family of four who had been separated.
Two of the surviving Indian nationals suffered serious injuries and were taken to hospital.
Shand has been charged with knowing or recklessly disregarding the fact that a foreign citizen had come, entered, or had been in the United States in violation of the law, transported, and transferred or such Attempts were made to transport civilians.
He appeared for the first time today before US District Court Magistrate Judge Hildy Bouber.
Shand was ordered to remain in custody pending a preliminary inquiry and custodial hearing, which is currently scheduled for January 24.
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