WATCH: Passengers held in France over 'human trafficking' concerns evade media in Mumbai, raise suspicions
A Romanian aircraft carrying 276 passengers, mostly Indians, landed in Mumbai on Tuesday four days after they were detained by the French authorities at an airport near Paris over suspected "human trafficking."
After enduring a challenging four-day experience in France, passengers returning to India now confront numerous inquiries regarding their contentious trip, which prompted a trafficking investigation by French authorities. Despite the probing questions, a significant number of individuals, primarily Indians, sought to evade the media's attention as they exited the Mumbai airport after their flight touched down at around 4 am.
Upon arrival, immigration officials conducted thorough interrogations before granting them permission to depart. Outside the airport premises, the passengers made concerted efforts to sidestep the awaiting media, keen to uncover the motives behind their visit. In total, 276 passengers were on the flight that brought them back to the financial capital.
A passenger quickly asserted, "Sir, no one is arriving from France," before swiftly fleeing into the crowd.
Meanwhile, another traveler acknowledged returning from France but declined to engage with the media.
The hesitance to interact with reporters might stem from the widely circulated reports regarding the potential involvement of illegal immigration in the situation.
After their Nicaragua-bound charter plane was grounded upon arrival from Dubai due to a tip-off suggesting the passengers could be potential victims of human trafficking, they found themselves stranded at France's Vatry airport for four days. Legend Airlines, the operator of the plane, vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Despite the denial, a French judge granted permission for the plane and passengers to depart on Monday. However, only 276 passengers could board, as 20 adults and five minors had sought asylum in the European country. International law prohibits the deportation of asylum seekers to their country of origin.
Two individuals, who underwent questioning by authorities, were also released; however, they were not part of the group that returned this morning. Their legal representative revealed that they have been issued an expulsion order from France.
Nicaragua, situated in Central America, remains a favored destination for immigrants attempting to cross into the US illegally.
According to official US data, in the fiscal year 2023, a substantial increase of 51.61 percent was recorded, with nearly 97,000 Indians attempting to enter the US illegally. Among them, at least 41,770 individuals sought to cross the US-Mexico border, as revealed by data from the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).
Flights heading to Nicaragua or other destinations where acquiring travel documents is relatively straightforward are colloquially referred to as "donkey" flights.