India police investigate human trafficking after deaths of Indian nationals at US-Canada border

The High Commission of India in Ottawa released a statement Thursday on the previous week’s death of four Indian nationals on the US-Canada border, saying that the four had likely died from exposure to the outdoor elements. The commission further stated that unsafe migration due to human smuggling was a key factor in their deaths.

The Patel family of four flew to Toronto from India on January 12 and attempted to cross on foot into the United States from Manitoba during a snowstorm on January 18, when temperatures were far below freezing. Canadian authorities have confirmed that there was no vehicle abandoned on the Canadian side of the border, leading to a belief that the Patels were driven to the border by another party who then left the scene.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have stated that the Patels were likely brought to the border by human smugglers. The US Department of Justice announced on January 20 that a Florida man, Steve Shands, was arrested after being stopped driving a van with undocumented Indian nationals in Minnesota one mile south of the Canadian border.

Shands is suspected to have some association with the Patels. He has been charged with one count of knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien had come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law, having transported, and moved or having attempted to transport and move such aliens.

Indian media has reported that Gujarat state police are investigating whether the Patels were assisted by any local travel agents in India to travel illegally to Canada with falsified visas.