French authorities on Thursday grounded a passenger plane carrying 303 Indian nationals on suspicion of human trafficking.
The flight was en route from the United Arab Emirates to Nicaragua, stopping for refueling at Paris Vatry Airport in France’s Champagne region. Authorities received an anonymous tip that passengers on the plane were being trafficked.
There were 11 unaccompanied minors on board the plane. CNN report. The youngest passenger was a 21-month-old infant.
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The Indian Embassy in France confirmed the incident in a post on Platform X, formerly known as Twitter. Officials said an embassy team arrived at the airport to provide consular access.
“We are investigating the situation and also ensuring the health of the passengers,” the post said.
The crew were questioned and released.
The plane was operated by Romania-based Legend Airlines.
The airline’s lawyer, Liliana Bakayoko, told CNN affiliates. BFMTV The plane, an A340, was chartered by a company registered outside the European Union. Bakayoko said Legend Airlines did not participate in ticket sales for the flight.
Bakayoko said the crew members were released after being questioned, adding that he felt “traumatized” by the situation.
“They wrote me messages saying they wanted to see their families for Christmas,” Bakayoko told The Associated Press.
2 passengers detained
The airline declined to name the company that chartered the flight, citing an ongoing investigation.
The incident caused travel disruption as police closed down the airport while they investigated. This airfield is primarily used for cargo and charter flights.
The adult passenger is being questioned by law enforcement authorities, CNN reports. Unaccompanied minors were referred to government agencies for care.
Two adults were detained as part of an investigation into suspected human trafficking.
According to CNN, the Paris public prosecutor’s office said, “Two of the passengers were arrested by police in order to establish whether their role in the transport was different from that of the other passengers, and in what circumstances and for what purpose. He is in custody and is being interrogated.”
Prosecutors in recent days declined to comment on the nature of the alleged human trafficking or whether the final destination of the passengers and crew was the United States.
A judge is expected to decide on Sunday whether the passengers should continue to be detained at the airport.
Contributed by: Associated Press