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A look at recent migrant deaths and close calls along the Canada-U.S. border

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The deaths this week of eight people of Indian and Romanian descent in the Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne have underscored the dangers related to illegal immigration.

Over the past year, a number of deaths and close calls have occurred along the nearly 9,000-kilometre Canada-United States border. Here is a look:

March 31, 2023

Akwesasne Mohawk Police say eight people, including two children under the age of three, whose bodies were pulled from the St. Lawrence River, were trying to enter the United States illegally from Canada.

The victims were from two families, one of Romanian descent and the other composed of Indian citizens. The children are believed to have been part of the Romanian family, and police found Canadian passports belonging to them.

Feb. 19, 2023   

Jose Leos Cervantes, 45, originally from Aguascalientes, Mexico, collapsed and died shortly after crossing the border into the United States from Quebec on foot in late February. Vermont State Police said the migrant was taken to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

In court documents, Border Patrol Agent Brian Wilda said Leos Cervantes was clutching a tree and appeared to be in distress at the time he was found.

Jan. 28, 2023

A man seeking to enter the United States was rescued by the RCMP near the border in Quebec's Eastern Townships, Radio-Canada reported. The man was found conscious but in poor health about a kilometre away from the border. He was transported to the hospital, where he was treated for hypothermia and frostbite.

Jan. 4, 2023

A Haitian man was found frozen to death in a wooded area near St-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., where police said he was trying to cross into the United States.

Provincial police said Fritznel Richard, 44, likely died of hypothermia. Friends of the asylum seeker later said that he had been unable to get a work permit in Canada and believed he would be able to get legal status in the U.S., as well as reunite with his wife in Florida.

Jan. 19, 2022

An Indian family of four died trying to reach the United States from Canada. The Patel family was found dead near a border crossing in Manitoba. The RCMP said they were trying to get into the U.S. during severe winter weather but died from exposure before reaching their destination.

Authorities said they believe a human smuggling operation was involved in the deaths of 39-year-old Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, his 37-year-old wife Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel and their two children, 11-year-old Vihangi Jagdishkumar Patel and Dharmik Jagdishkumar Patel, who was three.

Police in India have charged three people for their alleged roles in the deaths of the family with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, attempting culpable homicide, human trafficking and criminal conspiracy. A Florida man was also arrested and charged in Minnesota for his alleged role in smuggling the family.

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2023.

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