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The South Asian Insider

Anti-Human Trafficking Cell to probe grounding of plane with Indians in France



The Anti-Human Trafficking Cell, in collaboration with Mumbai Police, will take up the investigation into the plane which was grounded at a French airport over suspicion of a human trafficking scheme.
The officials have sought a detailed report of airport security personnel's interrogation of Indian passengers who returned on the said flight during the early hours of Tuesday.
An Airbus A340 plane carrying over 300 passengers, mostly Indians, had been bound for Nicaragua, when it was detained on December 21 at Vatry airport, 150 kilometres east of Paris, where it was due for refuelling. The aircraft had arrived from the UAE and was halted by French authorities after an anonymous tip-off that the plane was carrying potential victims of human trafficking.At the time of landing in France, the flight carried 303 Indian passengers, with 11 unaccompanied minors. Of the original 303 people on the passenger list, 276 were on the plane that arrived in Mumbai before dawn on Tuesday.
Now that those passengers have returned, the Anti-Human Trafficking Cell has called for a detailed enquiry into the matter. In a letter addressed to Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Maharashtra anti-human trafficking unit head Deepak Pandey sought details of the CISF-led brief interrogation of returnees upon their arrival at Mumbai airport on Tuesday.
The letter states that upon disembarking from the plane, passengers were subjected to questioning by the CISF and requested a report on the same.
Sources said the focus of the probe will be on scrutinising the passengers and the circumstances surrounding their travel.The plane carried 276 passengers on board when it took off for Mumbai, as 27 persons, including two minors, had expressed the wish to apply for asylum and were still on French soil.
The development surfaced as French authorities conducted two days of interviews with passengers regarding suspicions that they might be victims of human trafficking. Upon the flight's landing at Vatry Airport, French authorities launched a judicial investigation into the conditions and purpose of their trip, with a unit specialising in organised crime investigating trafficking claims.