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May 29, 2024

Plane Carrying 303 Indians Detained in France Over Trafficking Concerns Returns to Mumbai

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Dec 26, 2023

A charter plane carrying 303 Indian nationals that was grounded at a French airport for four days amid concerns of human trafficking has finally landed in Mumbai. The flight, operated by Portuguese leasing company Hi Fly, left France on Sunday after being detained since Wednesday. While most passengers returned to India, 27 chose to stay back in France and apply for asylum.

Flight Held for 96 Hours Over Tip About Trafficking

The Airbus A340 flying from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Managua, Nicaragua via Frankfurt was ordered on Wednesday to land at Vatry Airport, an alternative airfreight hub about 150 kms from Paris, after authorities received a tip-off that the passengers could be victims of human trafficking.

French border police interrogated passengers, including some minors travelling alone, trying to determine if they had willingly bought tickets costing over 10,000 euros each for the flight or were being transported against their will. Two people, believed to be Spanish nationals, were taken into custody for questioning.

After detaining the aircraft for 96 hours while investigations were conducted, judges finally allowed the flight to take off for Mumbai on Sunday afternoon. Most travellers opted to return while 27 chose to stay back, apply for asylum and begin a new life in France.

Motive Behind the Audacious Plan Slowly Emerging

Details behind the Indians’ ambitious plan to emigrate en masse to Nicaragua via a charter flight are slowly emerging. Officials revealed there were 11 unaccompanied minors amongst the passengers. While French authorities suspected human trafficking, it now appears the majority willingly paid agents over 10,000 euros each for a seat on the plane with the aim of entering the US eventually.

Passenger Details Number
Total Passengers 303
Unaccompanied Minors 11
Returned to India 276
Stayed Back in France 27

This route of reaching the US via Nicaragua has shot into prominence after a surge in Indians trying to illegally enter America in 2022 led to a crackdown on direct flights from India to Mexico and other routes. An agency is believed to have charged each traveller 10,000-30,000 euros for the entire journey.

Why Nicaragua and How Traffickers Exploit New Routes

Nicaragua is emerging as a new launching point for migrants aiming to sneak across the southern US border. After Nicaragua stopped requiring visas for Indians in 2021, traffickers have seized the opportunity to fly Indians there before transporting them north. From just 200 Indian nationals caught at the US-Mexico border in 2021, the number leapt to nearly 8,000 so far this year.

To curb this influx, Mexico now requires Indians to apply for visas. As existing routes close, agents switch to new pathways like the France-Nicaragua flight. Ironically, France itself has become an unintended stopover in the Indians’ journey towards America.

27 Passengers Apply for Asylum, 25 Cite ‘Dunki’ as Reason

In an unexpected twist, 27 passengers chose not to return to India and have applied for asylum in France. Reports indicate that 25 of them told immigration officials they wanted to stay back after being “inspired” by the Bollywood movie ‘Dunki’.

The recently released film is about an Indian immigrant’s struggles to live the American dream. It seems the travellers now wish to realize that dream in France instead. Officials are verifying if the movie genuinely motivated them to start afresh in Europe or if it merely served as a convenient pretext.

The passengers were already in a precarious situation after paying agents lakhs of rupees for a risky trip with no guarantee of entering America. Finding themselves unexpectedly on French soil, claiming asylum by citing ‘Dunki’ would have appeared an attractive proposition.

Flight Lands in Mumbai After 4 Days, Passengers Face Probe

After 96 hours stranded on French soil, the charter plane finally took off from Vatry Airport on Sunday afternoon. It made a stopover in Dubai before landing in Mumbai early Monday.

The returning passengers and crew were questioned by immigration authorities. Officials stated that while so far there is no evidence of trafficking regarding this flight, investigations are ongoing, including financial scrutiny of how passengers funded such an expensive trip.

Teams from the Central Industrial Security Force combed through the baggage of the travellers. Fearing arrest or questioning by police, most passengers dodged the media gathered at Mumbai airport.

The saga of flight LP4044 will have consequences going forward. Indian carriers like Air India have already cancelled direct flights to Mexico. Immigration officials will view niche charter routes with greater suspicion. For the 276 passengers back home, an uncomfortable scrutiny awaits about their motive for the bizarre trip and how they raised funds for expensive tickets.

As for the 27 still in France, their request for asylum will also face strict vetting. However, having already made it halfway across the globe, they will likely view starting over in Europe as a better outcome than retracing their steps back to India.

What Next After Strange Saga Causes Ripples

The entanglement of flight LP4044 in France over suspected human trafficking has sparked ripples of concern regarding the vulnerability of Indians trying to illegally migrate abroad through little-known air routes. It has also exposed the agility with which agents adapt routes and exploit easier visa norms like those of Nicaragua.

In the near future, charter flights on such paths will encounter more suspicion, especially when carrying Indian passengers. Airlines like Hi Fly could face scrutiny for not screening travellers diligently on niche routes. India is also likely to take up the orchestrated migration through charter planes with the Nicaraguan government.

Meanwhile, the returnees from Mumbai airport will have to convince local police that they were not being trafficked. Those like the 27 now in France could inspire more Indians stranded abroad to apply for asylum instead of deportation.

Above all, this curious case shows the desperate yearning that is driving citizens from an increasingly prosperous India towards the uncertainty of illegal immigration thousands of miles away from home. Unless this thirst for a better life abroad is quenched at home, more Indians will fall into the snares of agents on dangerous but ingenious pathways in their search for prosperity. And unseen further destinations could end up replacing Nicaragua on the human caravan route.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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