Monday, April 15, 2024

The Saga of the Grounded Indian Plane in France Comes to an End

HomeTop NewsThe Saga of the Grounded Indian Plane in France Comes to an...

After being grounded at a small airport in eastern France for four days under suspicion of human trafficking, a charter plane carrying over 300 Indian passengers has finally been cleared for departure. The Airbus A340 is set to depart Vatry Airport this morning on a flight bound for Mumbai, marking the conclusion of a dramatic affair that captured headlines in both France and India.

The plane, operated by a Romanian charter company called Legend Airlines, left Dubai last Wednesday on what was supposed to be a direct flight to Managua, Nicaragua. However, trouble arose when it stopped for refueling at Vatry Airport, located about 150 km from Paris. An anonymous tip sent to authorities alleged that some passengers aboard the aircraft were victims of human trafficking. This prompted an intervention by French police, who detained and questioned two men linked to the flight.

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The entire aircraft full of passengers was also ordered to remain grounded at Vatry pending further investigation. In total, there were 308 passengers on board, most of whom were Indian nationals. At least 11 were unaccompanied minors. It appears the majority were migrant workers who had been living and working in the United Arab Emirates. Their final destination was apparently North America, with a layover planned in Nicaragua.

French authorities have spent the last four days interviewing passengers and scrutinizing the flight manifest in an effort to determine if any human trafficking laws were violated. Passengers were confined to the airport and provided with makeshift beds, toiletries, and meals. By Friday, prosecutors had announced that the plane was cleared for departure after finding no evidence of wrongdoing.

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However, not every passenger will be departing on the Mumbai-bound flight. An estimated 200-250 are expected to board the plane when it leaves Vatry this morning. Those not in police custody who have not filed asylum applications are permitted to fly out. Reports indicate around four dozen passengers have requested asylum while in France.

The situation sparked a flurry of activity from Indian authorities. India’s embassy in Paris sent staff to Vatry to meet with passengers and liaise with French officials. They worked to ensure the stranded passengers were reasonably well cared for. India’s external affairs ministry also applied diplomatic pressure, underscoring that France promptly conclude its investigation.

The Indian government likely wished to avoid a repeat of past incidents where Indian citizens became stuck overseas in vulnerable situations. Memories remain fresh of migrant worker crises during the pandemic, when Indian authorities scrambled to repatriate vast numbers of citizens stranded abroad.

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As for the Romanian charter company Legend Airlines, its lawyer insists no laws were broken. The flight from Dubai to Nicaragua via Vatry was perfectly legal, they argue. However, the company says it will pursue damages from the client who booked the charter flight, citing major economic harm from the four-day aircraft detention.

Indian officials will be on hand at Vatry Airport today to assist any citizens who require consular aid when the plane departs. The Airbus A340 is scheduled to touch down in Mumbai this afternoon. For the passengers not permitted to fly onward to Nicaragua, it marks the end of a detour they will not soon forget.

Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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