Back in India after a four-day ordeal in France, the passengers face several questions on their controversial trip that triggered a trafficking probe by the French authorities. But many of them tried to run and avoid the media when approached outside the Mumbai airport.
As many as 276 passengers, mostly Indians, were on the flight that landed in the financial capital shortly after 4 am.
Immigration officials questioned them extensively on their arrival and allowed them to leave. Once outside the airport, they tried their best to avoid the media waiting to know from them the purpose for their visit.
“No one is coming from France, sir,” said a passenger before he took to his heels and vanished in the crowd.
Another flier admitted that he returned from France, but refused to talk to the media.
The reluctance to speak to the media may have arisen due to the possible illegal immigration angle widely reported across the world.
The passengers were stranded at France’s Vatry airport for four days after their Nicaragua-bound charter plane was grounded on arrival from Dubai following a tip-off that they could be potential victims of human trafficking.
Legend Airlines, which was operating the plane, denied any wrongdoing.
The plane and the fliers were allowed to depart on Monday by a French judge, but only 276 passengers could board it as 20 adults and five minors had sought asylum in the European country. Asylum seekers can’t be sent back to their country of origin under international law.
Two others, who were questioned by the authorities, were released too, but they weren’t among those who returned this morning. Their lawyer said they have received an expulsion order from France.
Nicaragua in central America is a popular destination for immigrants to cross into the US illegally.
Nearly 97,000 Indians have tried to enter the US illegally in the financial year 2023, a whopping 51.61 percent jump from the previous year as per US official data. At least 41,770 of those Indians tried to cross the Mexican land border into the US, the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) data showed.
Flights to Nicaragua or other countries where one can easily obtain travel documents are known as ‘donkey’ flights.