Indian village mourns family frozen to death at Canada-US border | world news

DINGUCHA, India (Reuters) – Relatives and neighbors of the Indian family who froze to death near the U.S.-Canada border last week said the father had repeatedly failed to secure better-paying jobs in recent years, tricking them into taking a risky journey aided by a network of illegal migrants.

The deaths amid sub-zero temperatures, described as a ‘stunning’ tragedy by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have shed light on economic pressures and human trafficking operations in the prime’s home state. Indian Minister Narendra Modi, Gujarat.

Jagdish Patel, 39, his wife Vaishali and their two children aged 11 and 3, were trying to enter the United States illegally when they were caught in a snowstorm and froze to death in the province of Manitoba in Canada on January 19, Canadian and Indian authorities said. in a report.

The victims, residents of Dingucha village in Gujarat, had left their ancestral home this month after suffering severe financial losses while running a small retail shop and were unable to make ends meet with their agricultural income.

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“The couple felt they were struggling to manage their home and the children needed a better education…they decided to leave India because they had failed to find a good job. here,” said Sanjay Patel, a cousin of the victim who lives in Dingucha, home to more than 1,200 families.

Although it is a highly industrialized state, thousands of people from Gujarat leave for the United States and Canada in search of better opportunities.

More than 2,000 villagers have emigrated to the United States in the past 10 years, mostly working in gas stations, shopping malls and restaurants, said Patel, who is also a self-governing village council member.

“People in our village and surrounding areas believe that prosperous lives can become a reality when we go abroad,” Patel said, adding that three temples, two bank buildings, two schools and a medical center were funded. by villagers living abroad.

“We are in shock after the incident but the government did not build our village, it is only our people living in America who send money to establish better services here,” he said. .

Posters from travel and immigration agents advertising what they described as easy US, UK and Canadian visa facilities are plastered on several walls in the village square, where residents gathered on Friday to mourn the loss.

US authorities have charged a Florida man, Steve Shand, with human trafficking after the four men – a man, a woman, a baby and a teenager – were found dead in Manitoba, a few meters north of the border with Minnesota.

Indian police said they arrested 13 travel agents and investigated the case to unearth illegal immigration networks across Gujarat, a highly industrialized state with an influential overseas-based diaspora.

An Indian police official investigating the case said the late Patel is among tens of thousands of locals immigrating to the West as they are reluctant to accept menial jobs which they consider below their social status .

“The Patel community has historically chosen to settle overseas, but we are now seeing an increasing number of cases where people are willing to sell their land, or just to find a way to live in Canada or America,” said the official, Ajay Parmar.

“Everyone wants better jobs and these are not readily available in India,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Sumit Khanna in Ahmedabad; Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

Christina A. Kroll