Plane grounded in France over suspected human trafficking lands in Mumbai

French authorities launched a judicial investigation into the conditions and purpose of the trip, with a unit specialising in organised crime investigating suspected human trafficking.

Mumbai: A charter plane carrying 276 passengers, mostly Indians, grounded in France for four days over suspected human trafficking, landed in Mumbai in the wee hours on Tuesday, an official said.

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The aircraft, an Airbus A340, landed in Mumbai shortly after 4 am, the official said. It had taken off from Vatry airport near Paris around 2.30 pm local time.

According to French authorities, the plane had 276 passengers on board when it took off for Mumbai, as 25 persons, including two minors, had expressed the wish to apply for asylum and were still on French soil. Two others were held and produced before a judge , who were brought before a judge, were released and placed on assisted witness status, a French news channel said.

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When the flight landed in Vatry airport, there were 11 unaccompanied minors among the 303 Indian passengers on board, a local official had said.

Makeshift beds were arranged for the stranded passengers, who were given access to toilets and showers and provided meals and hot drinks in the hall of Vatry airport, the official had said.

The flight, which was operated by Romanian charter company Legend Airlines and bound for Nicaragua, had landed at Vatry on Thursday for a technical stopover en route from Dubai when French police intervened.

French authorities launched a judicial investigation into the conditions and purpose of the trip, with a unit specialising in organised crime investigating suspected human trafficking.

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 percent jump from the previous year, according to data made available by the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

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 ‘dunki’ flights.

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