A flight grounded in France under human trafficking suspicions finally landed in Mumbai with 276 passengers, mostly Indian.
Mumbai: A flight initially grounded in France under human trafficking suspicions finally touched down in Mumbai. Early morning on December 26 witnessed the arrival of a charter plane with 276 passengers, mostly Indian, ending a four-day halt.
The Airbus A340, managed by Romanian Legend Airlines, left Vatry airport near Paris at 2:30 PM local time, reaching Mumbai after 4 AM. The flight was originally en route to Nicaragua from Dubai. French authorities interrupted it for a technical stopover after an anonymous tip, AFP reported. This sudden halt led to a probe into the purpose and conditions of the journey, focusing on suspected human trafficking.
During the wait, passengers received makeshift beds, meals, hot drinks and access to essential facilities. The Indian embassy in Paris, expressing gratitude for the swift handling of the situation, updated the public via social media platforms.
Not everyone ready to fly home
Authorities in France, after extensive questioning, permitted the flight’s departure. However, 25 individuals, including two minors, stayed back to seek asylum. A French news channel mentioned two others were presented before a judge and later given assisted witness status.
As per their lawyers, they have received an expulsion order from France. The other 25 people have sought asylum in France. Five of them are minors. Their applications would be processed at Charles-de-Gaulle airport.
Human trafficking concerns
The flight’s ordeal highlighted a larger issue. Nicaragua is increasingly becoming a transit point for Indians seeking to enter the US or Canada. US Customs and Border Patrol data showed a significant rise in Indians attempting illegal entry into the US, with many opting for ‘dunki’ flights to Nicaragua or other countries with lenient travel document policies, PTI reported.
In his latest Bollywood film ‘Dunki’ starring Shah Rukh Khan, director Rajkumar Hirani tells a story of opting for illegal immigration and seeking asylum.
The incident raised concerns about human trafficking. Genevieve Colas from Secours Catholique-Caritas expressed surprise at the release of the plane. “What if they really are victims of people trafficking?” AFP quoted her as saying. “Then it wouldn’t be right to just let them take off to another country.”