Eight people, including two children, have drowned while attempting to cross from Canada to the US illegally. On Friday, two more bodies, believed to be members of two families of Indian and Romanian descent, were discovered in the St Lawrence river, a stretch of waterway that spans the US-Canada border. Authorities suspect that they were attempting to enter the US from Canada, where they held citizenship.
The Canadian police are working with Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the US Homeland Security to identify the victims and inform their next-of-kin. According to the Akwesasne police, there has been a surge in illegal crossings into the US from Canada.
A community on the US-Canada border, Akwesasne, is grappling with the aftermath of the human smuggling operation. The Akwesasne Mohawk Police has confirmed that two bodies found on Friday were that of an adult female believed to be of Indian nationality and an infant who was a Canadian citizen of Romanian descent. All eight victims, including members of an Indian family, are believed to have been trying to enter the US illegally from Canada. One person is still missing.
The deceased’s bodies were discovered by authorities during a search that began on Thursday after a vessel was found overturned in the river. The deceased were members of two families of Indian and Romanian descent who were attempting to enter the US illegally. They included two Canadian citizens who were under the age of three. The families were among the thousands who are attempting to cross the US-Canada border illegally.
The bodies of four Indians, including a baby, were discovered frozen in Manitoba in January 2022 near the US-Canada border. Earlier in April 2022, six Indian nationals were rescued from the St Regis River, which runs through Akwesasne Mohawk Territory. The Mohawk territory police say that since January, there have been 48 cases of people attempting to cross illegally into Canada or into the US through the territory, and most of them have been of Indian or Romanian descent.
Ryan Brissette, a public affairs officer with the US Customs and Border Patrol, confirmed that the agency has seen a “massive uptick in encounters and apprehensions” at the US-Canada border. In 2022, more than eight times as many people tried to cross into the US from Canada compared to previous years. Many of them, over 64,000, came through Quebec or Ontario into New York. “Comparing this area in the past, this is a significant number,” Brissette said.
The region, which overlaps the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec and the American state of New York, has been used by Indians attempting to enter the US illegally in the past. In April 2021, six Indian nationals were rescued from the freezing St Regis River in the area. The incident occurred after suspicious activity was reported to the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service about a boat carrying “multiple subjects” on the Saint Regis River.
Akwesasne Mohawk Police Chief Shawn Dulude said that while the situation is not new, it is unfortunate. He added that “we’ve seen it happen in the past, and hopefully, as we move forward, it’s something we can one day eliminate.” Akwesasne police are working with Immigration Canada to identify the victims and notify the next of kin. They are also increasing surveillance on the river.
The tragic incident has drawn attention to the issue of human trafficking and illegal border crossings on the US-Canada border. The authorities need to come up with measures to deter people from trying to enter the US illegally from Canada. While the reasons for the increase in human smuggling are unclear, many believe that the pandemic and stricter immigration policies in the US may be contributing factors