Suspected Donkey Flight to USA Returns back to Mumbai

France grounds plane over suspected trafficking case: Illegal Indian Trafficking

The passengers, who had boarded a Legend Airlines charter plane in the UAE , reached Mumbai after the plane was detained for 4 days at Vatry airport, France for suspected human trafficking.

The attorney representing the airline, whose plane was allegedly involved in a ‘donkey flight’ and grounded in France, asserted that the majority of passengers had pre-booked hotels and return tickets for Nicaragua, the intended destination according to the company.

French Authorities revealed that 299 out of 303 passengers were Indian, and the grounding resulted from a tip-off indicating potential human trafficking victims among the flyers.

Reports suggested a possible connection between the plane and a crime syndicate attempting to traffick individuals into the United States, given the increased cases of Indians seeking illegal entry into the US via Nicaragua.

In an exclusive interview with NDTV, Liliana Bakayoko, the lawyer for Legend Airlines based in Romania, clarified that the passengers her colleagues defended in court had return tickets and hotel reservations. When confronted with information indicating only 12 passengers had return tickets, Bakayoko explained that the airline, hired by a foreign company for such flights, had passengers with return arrangements, though only three were heard by the judge.

Bakayoko described the situation as peculiar after the plane landed in France for refueling. The crew was instructed to leave the airport, go to a hotel, and wait to testify as witnesses, leaving passengers stranded. The crew, called back two hours later, faced uncertainty. Despite being released after questioning, the plane was seized, and passengers were asked to remain at the airport.

Hearings at the airport revealed irregularities in the detention procedure, leading French authorities to release all passengers. Some passengers, unwilling to go to India, the plane’s Tuesday landing destination, created complications. The Indian Embassy collaborated with French authorities to expedite permits for the 276 passengers who eventually departed for India, while others sought asylum.

Bakayoko disclosed that the client chartering the flight from Dubai to Nicaragua, a non-European company, was responsible for checking passports, tickets, and visas. She confirmed that the same client had chartered other flights to Nicaragua but lacked specific data on the number of Indian passengers on those flights.

‘Donkey flights’ refer to migrants traversing third countries with lenient travel document requirements to reach their final destinations.