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Plane Grounded In France Over Suspected ‘Human Trafficking’ Finally Lands In Mumbai Today

Tuesday at three in the morning, a charter plane with 276 passengers—mostly Indians—that had been grounded in France for four days due to possible human trafficking, touched down in Mumbai.

Images captured at the airport in Mumbai showed travellers departing the premises following the completion of the required paperwork.

There were 303 people on board the aircraft, including 11 children, when it landed at the Vatry airport in France on Thursday, according to local authorities. The French authorities were notified that out of them, 25 individuals—including two minors—had expressed a desire to ask for asylum and were still in France. The 25 passengers’ nationalities are yet unknown.

According to news agency, those who persisted were moved to a designated area at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport reserved for asylum applicants.

Two more were detained and brought before a French judge in the interim. A French news programme said that they were eventually freed and given the status of assisting witnesses.

The majority of these travellers from Punjab and Haryana were on their way to Mumbai. Shrouded in handkerchiefs and masks as they left the airport, they refused to talk to the press.

Not more than two bags bearing white Legend Airline tags were carried by the majority of the passengers. According to a report, the checked-in bags lacked the customary bag tags.

A passenger from Punjab, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that they had been given permission to return to their home state at their own expense.

The flight, which was being flown by the Romanian charter firm Legend Airlines, was headed for Nicaragua when it made an emergency landing at Vatry on Thursday while travelling from Dubai. French police then got involved. An anonymous tip had led them to believe that victims of human trafficking might be on board the aircraft. For the following three days, the aircraft and its occupants stayed in France as officials opened a court case to look into the purpose of the flight.

As per the reports, the investigation into possible incidents of human trafficking has been taken up by JUNALCO, the national anti-organized crime organisation of France. The airline has refuted any involvement in any potential human trafficking.

Officials from the Marne region have reported that the Vatry airport’s reception hall was converted into a waiting area and that travellers were given private beds.

The Vatry Airport authorities and the French government were commended on Monday by the Indian Embassy in France for their hospitality and prompt resolution of the issue, which allowed the Indian passengers to return home.

“Thank French Gov and Vatry Airport for quick resolution of the situation enabling Indian passengers to return home & hospitality. Also for working closely with embassy team, present throughout at the site to ensure welfare and smooth & safe return. Thank agencies in India, too,” the Indian Embassy in France wrote in a post on X.

According to news sources, the passengers may have planned their voyage to get to the Central American nation so they could try to enter the US or Canada illegally from there.

Up to 96,917 Indians made illegal attempts to enter the US in 2023; Nicaragua was a common destination for individuals looking to apply for asylum in the US.

Legend Airlines lawyer Liliana Bakayoko, however, has said some passengers didn’t want to go back to India because they had paid for a tourism trip to Nicaragua, news agency reported.

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