Plane stopped in France suspected of human trafficking

In World

About 300 Indian citizens have been sequestered in a small airport in the Champagne region of France for days as officials investigate whether the charter flight they were on was involved in human trafficking.

The group, which includes families with children, were en route to Nicaragua, with the youngest passenger just 21-months-old. Several were unaccompanied minors, according to the local civil protection agency.

French officials grounded the plane after getting a tip, and two passengers were detained as part of a special investigation into suspected human trafficking by an organized criminal group.

Prosecutors did not say what kind of trafficking was suspected or if the plane’s ultimate destination was the U.S., where the number of Indians crossing the Mexico-U.S. border this year has skyrocketed.

The unmarked A340 plane has been grounded at Vatry since Thursday. The 15 crew members of the Legend Airlines charter flight — en route from the United Arab Emirates to Managua, Nicaragua — were questioned and released.

Passengers have been sequestered on camp beds in the airport, which handles mainly small or chartered flights.

The group was en route to Nicaragua. AFP via Getty Images
Prosecutors did not say what kind of trafficking was suspected. AP
A French gendarme patrols the area near a Legend Airlines chartered plane that has been grounded at Vatry Airport since Thursday after officials got a tip that human trafficking could be involved. AP

Indian consular representatives are at the airport and working with the French government ‘’for the welfare of the Indians’’ and for an ‘’early resolution of the situation,’’ the Indian Embassy in France posted Saturday on X.

Legend Airlines lawyer Liliana Bakayoko denied any knowledge of trafficking involved with the plane or its passengers. The customer who chartered the plane, which is not a European company, has chartered multiple Legend Airlines flights from Dubai to Nicaragua without incident.

The U.S. government has designated Nicaragua as one of several countries deemed as failing to meet minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking.

The number of Indian migrants through Mexico has increased from fewer than 3,000 in 2022 to more than 11,000 from January to November this year, according to the Mexican Immigration Agency.

with Post wires

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