Indians quizzed by CISF, avoid media after plane held by France lands in Mumbai | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Indian passengers quizzed by CISF, avoid media after plane held by France lands in Mumbai: Latest updates

Dec 26, 2023 11:20 AM IST

The plane carrying 276 passengers, mostly Indians, that was grounded in France over human trafficking probe, landed at Mumbai around 4am on Tuesday.

The Indian passengers were interrogated by Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officials after their charter plane, grounded in France for four days over suspected human trafficking, landed in Mumbai in the wee hours on Tuesday, news agency ANI reported.

A passenger from Nicaragua bound Airbus A340 flight that was grounded in France on suspicion of human trafficking, evades the media as he leaves the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport after his arrival, in Mumbai, (REUTERS)
A passenger from Nicaragua bound Airbus A340 flight that was grounded in France on suspicion of human trafficking, evades the media as he leaves the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport after his arrival, in Mumbai, (REUTERS)

The plane carrying 276 passengers, mostly Indians, that was grounded in France over suspected human trafficking, landed at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai around 4am. The passengers had been heading to Nicaragua but were instead blocked inside the Vatry Airport for four days in an exceptional holiday ordeal.

The Legend Airlines A340 plane stopped on Thursday for refuelling in Vatry en route from Fujairah airport in the United Arab Emirates to Managua, Nicaragua, and was grounded by police based on an anonymous tip-off that it could be carrying human trafficking victims.

The Associated Press reported that Legend Airlines lawyer Liliana Bakayoko said some passengers didn't want to go to India because they had paid for a tourism trip to Nicaragua. The airline has denied any role in possible human trafficking.

Plane with Indians lands in Mumbai: What we know so far

  • The passengers who arrived from France went through immigration procedures and customs checks. Their statements were recorded and allowed to exit the airport only after the formalities were completed after almost five hours.
  • The passengers, hiding their faces, avoided the media on their arrival at the Mumbai airport.
  • The French administration said 276 of the original 303 passengers were en route to Mumbai, and that 25 others requested asylum in France.
  • Those who remained were transferred to a special zone in Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport for asylum-seekers, it said. The passengers grounded in France had included a 21-month-old child and several unaccompanied minors.
  • The remaining two passengers were initially detained as part of a human trafficking investigation but were released Monday after appearing before a judge, the Paris prosecutor's office said. The judge named them as "assisted witnesses" to the case, a special status under French law that allows time for further investigation and could lead to eventual charges or to the case being dropped.
  • News agency AP reported that prosecutors wouldn’t comment on whether the passengers’ ultimate destination could have been the US, which has seen a surge in Indians crossing the Mexico-U.S. border this year.
  • French authorities are working to determine the aim of the original flight, and opened a judicial inquiry into activities by an organised criminal group helping foreigners enter or stay in a country illegally, the prosecutor's office said.
  • The Indian embassy posted its thanks on X (formerly Twitter) to French officials for ensuring that the Indians could go home. French authorities worked through Christmas Eve and Christmas morning on formalities to allow passengers to leave France, regional prosecutor Annick Browne told AP.
  • Foreigners can be held up to four days in a transit zone for police investigations in France, after which a special judge must rule on whether to extend that to eight days.
  • Nicaragua has become a popular destination for those seeking asylum in the US. As many as 96,917 Indians attempted to enter the US illegally in the financial year 2023, signalling a 51.61 per cent jump from the previous year, according to data made available by the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), news agency PTI reported.
  • At least 41,770 of those Indians attempted to enter the US via the Mexican land border, CBP data shows. Flights to Nicaragua or third countries where obtaining travel documents is easy have come to be known as 'donkey' or 'dunki' flights.

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