| 29 February 2024, Thursday |

French airport provides makeshift base for Indians on grounded flight

A local official said on Saturday that around 300 Indian nationals on board a plane grounded in France on suspicion of human trafficking were being cared for in the hall of an airport in the eastern region of Marne while an investigation was underway.

Marne emergency services had set up makeshift beds for the 303 stranded passengers, provided toilets and showers, and served meals and hot drinks at Vatry airport, according to a spokeswoman for the Marne prefect’s office.

Officials from the Indian general consulate were visiting them regularly, she added in a statement.

The flight, which was operated by Romanian charter company Legend Airlines, landed at Vatry on Thursday for a technical stopover en route from Dubai when French police intervened, the Marne prefect’s office said on Friday.

It said a judicial investigation into the conditions and purpose of the trip had been launched, with a unit specialising in organised crime investigating suspected human trafficking.

AFP reported the passengers on the grounded plane, which was bound for Nicaragua, included 13 unaccompanied minors.

The Paris public prosecution office said on Friday that two people were held for questioning, adding that authorities had been tipped off by an anonymous informant.

It gave no further information on Saturday.

A lawyer representing Legend Airlines said on Saturday the plane’s crew had been released after questioning.

“The members of the crew have been questioned, the questioning has ended and they are all free to move. None has been put in custody,” Liliana Bakayoko told BFM TV.

The flight was chartered by a “trusted” client, Bakayoko said, adding that it was a non-European company which the airline did not want to name.

Legend Airlines did not understand why the plane had been grounded, she added.

The Indian embassy in Paris and the Indian foreign ministry did not immediately reply to request for comment on Saturday.

  • Reuters