An Airbus A340 with 276 passengers on board, mostly Indians, arrived in Mumbai after being held in France for four days due to suspicions of human trafficking.
The plane, which departed from Vatry airport near Paris at around 2.30 pm local time, touched down in Mumbai just after 4 am.
The French officials said. that the flight had 276 passengers on board, while 20 people, among whom were five minors, stayed back in France to seek asylum.
After touching down in Vatry on Friday, it was discovered that 11 out of the 303 passengers were unaccompanied minors.
Throughout the challenging four-day situation, the stranded passengers were supplied with temporary bedding, facilities for hygiene like toilets and showers, meals and warm beverages, all within the confines of Vatry airport's halls.
The link between the flight and Nicaragua raised doubts, given the recent influx of asylum seekers from the Central American country to the United States.
US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) data indicates a notable rise in the number of Indians trying to enter the US illegally, with recorded figures reaching 96,917 in the fiscal year 2023, a significant increase of 51.61 percent compared to the last year.
The strategy used by certain migrants, referred to as 'dunki' flights, is especially worrisome. This involves individuals passing through third countries, which have lax requirements for travel documents, to arrive at their ultimate destinations.
The chartered flight from Dubai had touched down for refuelling at an airport which is 160 km away from Paris. However, it was subsequently grounded following a tip-off suggesting that the passengers could potentially be victims of human trafficking.
The plane, according to the media reports, could be associated with a criminal group trying to illegally transport people into the United States. France's anti-organized crime unit, JUNALCO, has now taken over the investigation.
Human trafficking, if proven, carries severe consequences in France, with a potential sentence of up to 20 years.
Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.
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