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Four Indians freeze to death: Indian missions in Canada, US rush consular help

The Consulate General of India in Toronto has sent a consular team to Manitoba, Canada, which is liaising with local authorities to render any consular help regarding the four Indians whose bodies were found on Wednesday on the Canada-US border.

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New Delhi: The Indian missions in Canada and the US have rushed officials to the Canada-US border to render consular help after four Indians, including an infant and a teen, were found frozen to death in a suspected attempt at the illegal border crossing.

The Consulate General of India in Toronto has sent a consular team to Manitoba, Canada, which is liaising with local authorities to render any consular help regarding the four Indians whose bodies were found on Wednesday on the Canada-US border.

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The Consulate General as well as the High Commission in Ottawa are also in touch with the Canadian provincial and federal authorities for ascertaining details of the tragedy said sources on Saturday.

At the same time, the Consulate General of India in Chicago has also urgently sent a team of officials to Minneapolis, which is coordinating and rendering consular assistance. They have sought consular access to the seven Indians who were detained without proper documents on the Canada-US border, the sources added.

The Consulate and the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C. are also in touch with the US Department of Justice, and the US Customs and Border Police in the matter.

On January 19, US authorities in Minnesota State, near the US – Canada border, came across a group of people who were apparently without proper documentation.

Based on information obtained from them, Canadian authorities launched a search and found the four bodies in Manitoba province on the Canadian side of the border.

These four people (a man, a woman, a teenage boy, an infant) appeared to have died due to the cold.

The people without proper documentation on the US side, as well as the dead people on the Canadian side, appear to be Indian nationals, the sources added.

However, further efforts are underway to identify them and confirm their nationalities, said sources.

Post-mortem of the victims is likely to be carried out on January 24.

US authorities have detained seven people without proper documentation, as well as one US citizen, for allegedly being involved in human smuggling activity from Canada to the US.

One of them (a woman) is still hospitalized due to cold-related injuries (earlier one more person had been hospitalized), the sources added.

Indian Missions and Posts will continue to extend all assistance, the sources added.

On Friday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar expressed shock at the deaths and directed the Indian ambassadors in the US and Canada to “urgently respond to the situation”.

The Indian High Commissioner in Canada Ajay Bisaria, terming it a grave tragedy, said on Friday that an Indian consular team is travelling from Toronto to Manitoba to coordinate and help. He also said that the Indian High Commission will work with the Canadian authorities to probe these “disturbing events”.

Indian Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, terming it an unfortunate and tragic incident, said they are in touch with US authorities in their ongoing probe. He said an Indian consular team from Chicago has been sent to Minnesota to provide assistance.

A Florida man Steve Shand, 47, has been charged with human smuggling after the bodies of the four Indians were found in Canada near the US border in what authorities believe was a failed crossing attempt during a freezing blizzard.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota said Shand appeared in court on Thursday.

The Indians are believed to be Gujaratis.

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