Police in Canada have said they have recovered the bodies of two more migrants who drowned in the St Lawrence River while attempting to enter the US from Canada illegally, taking the death toll to eight. The deceased include members of an Indian family.
The bodies were found on Friday (March 31) in a marsh on the riverbank near Akwesasne, a territory that straddles Quebec, Ontario, and New York state. One other person is still missing.
Two families of Indian and Romanian descent
Police say the deceased, believed to be two families of Indian and Romanian descent, were trying to cross into the United States from Canada. Among them were two children under the age of three, both Canadian citizens.
“Unfortunately, these situations happen. It’s not something new,” Akwesasne Mohawk Police chief Shawn Dulude said of people trying to cross over.
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“We’ve seen it happen in the past, and hopefully as we move forward, it’s something we can one day eliminate,” the officer was quoted as saying by the Montreal Gazette newspaper.
Akwesasne police are working with Immigration Canada to help identify the victims and notifying their next of kin. They are also increasing surveillance on the river, it said.
Search crews discovered the bodies
Authorities located the first body in the marsh around 5 pm on Thursday (March 30) during an aerial search conducted at the request of the Canadian Coast Guard. Throughout Friday, search crews could be seen scanning the marshes near the local marina in a light airboat. A helicopter also searched the river.
The last two bodies, of the second infant and another woman, were retrieved from the water during the day. On Thursday afternoon (March 30), police discovered six bodies and an overturned boat during a missing persons search, CBC News reported.
“They are believed to have been an Indian family and a Romanian family who were attempting to cross into the US,” the police said, adding that an Akwesasne resident remained missing.
Increase in human smuggling into the US
According to the police, there has been an uptick in human smuggling into the US. Ryan Brissette, a public affairs officer with the US Customs and Border Patrol, said the agency had seen a “massive uptick in encounters and apprehensions” at the border.
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“The agency saw more than eight times as many people try to cross from Canada into the US in 2022 compared to previous years,” he said. “Many of them, more than 64,000, came through Quebec or Ontario into New York.”
“Comparing this area in the past, this is a significant number,” Brissette said.
“There are a lot of different reasons as to why this is happening, why folks are coming all of a sudden through the northern border. I think a lot of them think it’s easier, an easy opportunity, and they just don’t know the danger that it poses, especially in the winter months,” the officer said.
48 incidents of illegal crossing since January
Akwesasne police say there have been 48 incidents of people trying to cross illegally into Canada or into the United States through the Mohawk territory since January, and most of them have been of Indian or Romanian descent.
In January 2022, the bodies of four Indians, including a baby, were found frozen in Manitoba near the Canada-US border. In April 2022, six Indian nationals were rescued from a sinking boat in the St Regis River, which runs through Akwesasne Mohawk Territory.
(With agency inputs)