Human smuggling can be a last resort plan and an act of desperation in an attempt to secretly cross the border. For those helping, it’s an illegal business.
The discovery of four bodies at the Canada-U.S. border in Manitoba has prompted a wider call from experts in hopes of the Canadian government re-evaluate current border policies.
“The border is now more dangerous, more disorderly in between ports of entry and we’ve seen a sharp increase in irregular border crossings and an increase in border deaths,” Efrat Arbel, an associate professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University British Columbia says.
In 2004, Canada and the United States created the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement. The agreement was made to enhance the integrity of the border between the two countries.
“This is a bilateral agreement between the states that prevents refugees from crossing at land ports of entry, unless they satisfy a very narrow narrow set up exemptions.”
While it’s unclear if the four bodies found last week were of those looking to claim refugee, experts still agree border policies are counterinitiative.
“The harder governments make it to move and the fewer pathways there are to do that safely and legally, it does incentivize and creates this market, this underground market,” says Julie Young, an assistant professor at the University of Lethbridge and Canada Research Chair Tier Two Critical Border Studies.
“People are always going to want to move, seeking security and safety for themselves and their families,” she says. “Smuggling, I would say, is facilitated and even encouraged by harsh border control policies.”
The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to review the legality of the border agreement.
Homeland Security Investigations says smuggling is extremely prevalent.
“Human smuggling can be a very difficult and incredibly dangerous situation,” Special Agent Tonya Price with Homeland Security Investigations told Global News.
“Smugglers are really looking at human beings not being human beings, but rather a commodity.”
She says smugglers can charge anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000 to help get an individual across the border.
Often the hope of a better life outweighs the treacherous journey to try to get across.
“It also could be because they’re trying to escape something that’s happening or could be happening to them in their home country such as arranged marriages,” Price said.
Usually, she says, a group of smugglers work together to move people across the border.
“You’re dealing with people who are committing a crime — they’re not looking out for your best interests, they’re looking out for their bottom line,” she says.
“The smugglers have control over their freedoms.”
Price says it’s common for human smuggling efforts to escalate further into human trafficking as individuals become desperate.