Indians stuck on the Marne: authorities are preparing to “redirect” passengers

Covered windows of Vatry airport, in Marne, December 22, 2023 (FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI / AFP)

French authorities hope to get permission “by Monday morning at the latest” to divert the plane carrying the Indian passengers who have been stranded at Marne airport since Thursday evening after their plane was grounded on suspicion of human trafficking.

The Paris prosecutor’s office told AFP that the courts had allowed the plane in question to leave the Marne.

“This decision allows consideration of the rerouting of passengers located in the waiting area” at the airport, the prefecture said in a press release, without giving details of any destination.

“The competent authorities of the Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGAC) are therefore working to obtain the necessary permits for the re-takeoff of the aircraft, which should take place on Monday morning at the latest,” she added.

The possibility of the departure of these Indian passengers, who are 303 in total but two of them are still in police custody, is boosted by the fact that the courts canceled the procedure for the first passenger and kept them at the airport for three days. could apply to others.

“Poor living conditions”

This cancellation, decided by a JLD judge, is explained in particular by the 11-hour waiting period between when the aircraft was immobilized and when the JLD aircraft was detained, which constitutes an “disproportionate attack on a person”. of rights,” according to the order consulted by AFP.

“It is very likely that other files will follow the same path,” said the president of Châlons-en-Champagne, François Procureur, during a press conference after the decision.

These JLDs were mobilized for a major operation on Christmas Day in a building adjacent to the terminal to decide whether to keep these passengers in the waiting area.

Earlier on Sunday, François Prosecutor was concerned about “problems of cramped conditions and poor living conditions” in this waiting room created by prefectural decree on Thursday evening.

A patrolman patrols outside Vatry airport in Marne on December 23, 2023 in front of white tarps installed on the windows of the airport hall where more than 300 Indians are trapped
A patrolman patrols outside Vatry airport in Marne on December 23, 2023 in front of white tarps installed on the windows of the airport hall where more than 300 Indians are trapped (FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI / AFP)

303 Indian passengers on a flight operated by Romania’s Legend Airlines between Dubai (UAE) and Nicaragua’s capital Managua have been stranded since Thursday afternoon after their Airbus A340 was grounded on arrival at Vatra, 150 km away. Paris, refuel.

What was supposed to be just a technical stop turned into a long immobilization after an “anonymous report” that the passengers were “likely to be victims of human trafficking” by an organized gang, the Paris prosecutor’s office told AFP on Friday.

11 unaccompanied minors

According to a source close to the matter, these Indians, possibly workers in the United Arab Emirates, may have been planning to travel to Central America to then try to enter the United States or Canada illegally.

Among them, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office, are eleven unaccompanied minors.

An Airbus A340 carrying 303 Indians, on the tarmac of Vatry Airport, in Marne, December 23, 2023
An Airbus A340 carrying 303 Indians, on the tarmac at Vatry airport, in Marne, December 23, 2023 (FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI / AFP)

The investigation, which is being carried out by the National Jurisdiction to Fight Organized Crime (Junalco), is to “verify whether there are any elements that would confirm” the suspicion of human trafficking, according to the indictment.

The two police detentions, which began on Friday, were “extended on Saturday evening for a maximum period of 48 hours”, the Paris prosecutor’s office told AFP, “to check” whether the role of the two people “could not have been different from that”. others.”

Ten asylum applications were also filed late Saturday afternoon, according to a source close to the case.

Chetnik vehicle outside Vatry airport in Marne, where a plane with 303 Indian passengers is immobilized, December 23, 2023
Chetnik vehicle in front of Vatry airport in Marne, where a plane with 303 Indian passengers is stopped, December 23, 2023 (FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI / AFP)

Marne Prefecture says individual beds, toilets and showers have been installed, as well as a “family” zone to ensure privacy for parents and children.

The thirty crew members affected by either the Dubai-Vatry connection or the Vatry-Managua route were “authorized to leave freely”, Liliana Bakayoko, who presents herself as the airline’s lawyer, assured AFP.

According to the specialized website Flightradar, Legend Airlines is a small company with a fleet of four aircraft.

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