Several Indians, including unaccompanied minors, remain stuck at an airport in France after local authorities yesterday grounded their plane over suspected “human trafficking”.
The Nicaragua-bound charter plane from Dubai was carrying 303 people, most of them Indians. It was grounded on Saturday during a technical halt at Vatry airport near Paris.
A French judge, who has the authority to extend the detention of the passengers by eight days, is due to hear the case today.
The French border cops can hold a foreign national for up to four days if they land in the country and are not allowed to travel further. This can be extended for eight days – and up to 26 days in total – in exceptional cases by a judge.
The Indian embassy in France has obtained consular access and are assessing the situation. It said it is working with the French government for the welfare of the Indians stuck at the airport.
Request For Asylum
At least 10 Indian passengers have applied for asylum, reported news agency AFP, adding six minors have also expressed an interest in applying for asylum.
At least 11 unaccompanied minors are on board the plane, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.
The stranded passengers have been provided makeshift beds and access to toilets and showers. They have been given meals and hot drinks at the Vatry airport, an official said.
Vatry in eastern France is about 150 km from Paris and the airport serves mostly budget airlines. The grounded Airbus A340 belongs to a Romanian charter company named Legend Airlines.
The Paris prosecutor said the action came after an anonymous tip-off that some of the passengers on board the plane were “victims of human trafficking”. Two men have been detained and questioned by a specialised unit.
French law provides for a 20-year jail term for human trafficking cases.
A lawyer claiming that she represents the Legend Airlines said the company believed it had done nothing wrong, had committed no offence “and is at the disposal of the French authorities”.
She said the airline will take legal action if charges are filed.