• Friday, February 23, 2024

EUROPE

Indian passengers held in France to be set free today

TOPSHOT – This photograph taken on December 23, 2023, shows the Airbus A340 which was grounded over suspected “human trafficking” at Vatry airport, north-eastern France. The Airbus A340 has been held at Vatry airport, 150 kilometres (95 miles) east of Paris, since arriving from Dubai following an anonymous tip-off that it was carrying potential victims of human trafficking. Thirteen unaccompanied minors are among the more than 300 Indian passengers. (Photo by FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI / AFP) (Photo by FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

A PLANE with 303 Indian passengers detained near Paris over suspicions of human trafficking will be free to leave on Monday (25), French judicial officials said, though its destination remains unclear.

The Nicaragua-bound Airbus A340 with its Indian passengers was held at Vatry airport, 150 kilometres (95 miles) east of Paris, when it arrived on Thursday (21) from Dubai for refuelling, after an anonymous tip-off that it was carrying potential victims of human trafficking.

After questioning the passengers for two days, French prosecutors on Sunday (24) gave the go-ahead for the plane to leave, and full approval for its departure is expected Monday, the local prefecture said in a statement.

Although the statement did not mention a destination, the head of the local bar association, Francois Procureur, told a press conference the passengers would be flown to India.

A source close to the inquiry said the Indians were likely workers in the United Arab Emirates who had been bound for Nicaragua as a jumping off spot for the United States or Canada.

The passengers of the flight, operated by Romanian company Legend Airlines, were put up at the airport during the investigation.

Beds, toilets and showers were installed, the local prefecture said, while police have prevented press and outsiders from entering the airport.

The passengers included 11 unaccompanied minors, according to Paris prosecutors.

Two passengers have been detained since Friday (22) “to verify” whether their role “may have been different than the others in this transport, and under what conditions and with what objectives”.

Twelve of the passengers have requested asylum, a source close to the case said.

The Indian embassy in Paris on Saturday (23) posted on X that “embassy consular staff” were on site to working with French authorities “for the welfare” of detained passengers for an “early resolution of the situation”.

The 30 crew members were not detained. Some handled the Dubai-Vatry leg and others were to take over for the flight to Managua. According to Flightradar24, Legend Airlines has just four planes.

(AFP)

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