TORONTO: Police in Canada have said they 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, including members of an Indian family.
The bodies were found on Friday in a marsh on the riverbank near Akwesasne, a community that straddles Quebec, Ontario and New York state.
One other person is still missing.
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.
“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 assist with identifying the victims and notifying the next of kin.
They are also increasing surveillance on the river, it said.
Authorities located the first body in the marsh around 5 p.m. on Thursday during an aerial search conducted at the request of the Canadian Coast Guard.
Throughout the day on Friday, search crews could be seen wading through a marshy area near the local marina with the help of a light airboat. A helicopter also scanned the river. The last two bodies, of a second infant and another woman, were retrieved from the water during the day.
Police recovered two more bodies from the river on Friday, after discovering six bodies and an overturned boat during a missing person search Thursday afternoon, CBC News reported.
They are believed to have been an Indian family and a Romanian family who were attempting to cross into the US, police said, adding, that an Akwesasne resident remains missing.
According to police, there has seen an uptick in human smuggling into the U.S.
Ryan Brissette, a public affairs officer with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, says the agency had seen a “massive uptick in encounters and apprehensions” at the border.
The agency saw more than eight times as many people try to cross from Canada into the U.S. 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’s 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.
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.
In April 2022, six Indian nationals were rescued from a sinking boat in the St Regis River, which runs through Akwesasne Mohawk Territory.