Plane Carrying 303 Passengers, Mostly Indians, Allowed To Leave France

PARIS: A Nicaragua-bound flight carrying 303 passengers, mostly Indians, was allowed to resume its journey on Monday, three days after they were detained by the French authorities at an airport near Paris over suspected “human trafficking”, according to local media reports on Sunday.
After authorising the A340 aircraft, operated by Romanian company Legend Airlines, to leave, the French judges chose to cancel the hearings of the over 300 passengers due to irregularities in the procedure, BFM TV, a French news broadcast television and radio network, reported.
Four French judges earlier in the day began questioning the passengers detained by the French authorities at the Vatry airport, 150 km east of Paris, since Thursday over suspected “human trafficking”.
The hearings were conducted as part of the investigation opened by the Paris prosecutor’s office on suspicion of human trafficking.
Destination not known
The plane is expected to take off again on Monday morning. Its destination is not yet known. It could travel to India, where the passengers are from, to Nicaragua, its original destination, or to Dubai, from where it took off, the report added.
According to the French media, some of the passengers spoke Hindi and others Tamil and are believed to have contacted their families by telephone. Ten of the passengers have requested asylum, the newspaper quoted a source close to the case as saying.
The plane includes 11 unaccompanied minors and two passengers in custody since Friday had their detention extended on Saturday evening for up to 48 hours, according to French prosecutors.
The aircraft is owned by Romanian charter company Legend Airlines. A lawyer for the firm, Liliana Bakayoko, denied any involvement in the trafficking.
A “partner” company that chartered the plane was responsible for verifying the identity documents of each passenger, and communicated the passengers’ passport information to the airline 48 hours before the flight, Bakayoko said.
Human trafficking carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in France.
On Saturday, India’s embassy in France said its staff are stationed at the airport near Paris to ensure the welfare of Indian nationals after the passengers were detained by French authorities over suspected “human trafficking”.
In an updated message on social media on Saturday evening, the embassy thanked the French authorities for working over the long Christmas holiday weekend in pursuit of an “early resolution” of the situation.
According to the reports, the travel may have been planned by the Indian passengers to reach Central America from where they can attempt to enter the United States or Canada illegally.
But an anonymous tip indicated that passengers were “likely to be victims of human trafficking” in an organised gang, alerted the authorities. (Agencies)