MUMBAI, India: A commercial airplane, an Airbus A340 aircraft – originally bound for Nicaragua – carrying 276 passengers from India successfully landed in Mumbai today (Tuesday) after a temporary detainment in France due to suspicions of human trafficking.
The plane, operated by Romania-based Legend Airlines, was originally bound for Nicaragua but was grounded for several days at Vatry airport near Paris following concerns raised over the passengers’ potential involvement in trafficking.
After a thorough investigation and legal considerations, the plane continued its journey, marking the closure of a tense situation that began with alarming allegations of human trafficking.
The situation arose after an anonymous tip about possible human trafficking among passengers. Concerns led to the plane being grounded for several days. Of the original 303 passengers, 276 boarded the Mumbai-bound flight after authorities concluded they had boarded the plane voluntarily.
French authorities initially detained two people on suspicion of involvement in human trafficking, but they were later released after it was found that all passengers had boarded voluntarily. The investigation now focuses on potential immigration violations rather than human trafficking.
During the detention in France, 25 passengers, including five minors, applied for asylum in the country. In addition, French courts ruled against the further detention of some passengers, allowing the plane to continue its journey.
The Indian embassy expressed gratitude for the quick resolution that allowed the passengers to return home. The embassy also noted that passengers initially thought to be potential victims of human trafficking were likely workers from the United Arab Emirates who intended to travel to Nicaragua as a gateway to the United States or Canada.
Legend Airlines, the airline involved in the incident, operates only four planes and its 30 crew members have not been detained. French authorities said that while no evidence of human trafficking had been found, an investigation into potential violations of immigration laws was ongoing.
The episode has raised concerns among some humanitarian organizations, including Secours Catholique-Caritas, which questioned the decision to allow the plane to depart, given the possibility that the passengers could actually be victims of human trafficking.