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France Releases Plane Suspected of Carrying Human Trafficking Victims After Five Days, Flies Passengers Home

France Releases Plane Suspected of Carrying Human Trafficking Victims After Five Days, Flies Passengers Home

a large white airplane on a runway

A plane that was detained at a small airport close to Paris for five days after police received an anonymous tipoff that some of the passengers onboard were victims of human trafficking has been released but made to fly to Mumbai to get the passengers, all of whom were Indian nationals, back home.

The Airbus A340 aircraft landed at Paris-Vatry Airport on Thursday afternoon and was immediately grounded in a major police operation aimed at busting a criminal human trafficking gang.

Operated by the small Romanian charter carrier Legend Airlines, the 15-year-old plane had arrived at Vatry Airport following an eight-hour flight from Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

The aircraft was only meant to remain at Vatry Airport for around an hour so that the plane could be refuelled before flying to its ultimate destination in Nicaragua.

Why Nicaragua? Several countries in Central America have seen a surge in passengers arriving from India as a starting point for immigrants to make the perilous journey to illegally cross the Southern Border into the United States.

After grounding the plane, French police detained the 300 passengers, which included several small children, inside the small airport terminal. Temporary beds were set up, and food and drink were provided while the authorities worked out what to do with the passengers.

Specialist judges eventually decided to order the release of most of the passengers because the police failed to apply for continued detention in a timely fashion.

Around the same time, the aircraft was released back into the control of the airline, although the French civil aviation authorities got to decide the first destination where the aircraft would be allowed to fly.

Of the 300 passengers who arrived on the plane, 276 flew to Mumbai on the afternoon of Christmas Day, where the plane landed early on December 26.

Twenty-five of the passengers have applied for asylum in France, and two others were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and have since been released as ‘assisted witnesses’.

According to data supplied by Flight Radar 24, the same Legend Airlines aircraft had made the trip from the United Arab Emirates to Nicaragua via Paris-Vatry several times during December.

Legend Airlines says the aircraft was chartered by a trusted customer. The crew were interviewed by police but quickly released.

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