Deadly US dreams: A toddler was on ‘donkey flight’, now he’s untraceable

AHMEDABAD: Amidst the unfolding saga of the “donkey flight” grounded in France, one passenger stands out — a two-year-old boy from Gujarat who was onboard as an unaccompanied minor. However, he is now untraceable.
Gujarat police have launched an investigation to locate the child, identify his parents or guardians, and unravel whether he was part of a complex plan orchestrated by human smugglers, possibly facing a fate similar to the many children abandoned on the US-Canada border.
A Gujarat police CID officer said: “We have been trying to locate the child and his parents or guardians as many families have left their homes in north Gujarat.”The flight to Nicaragua, carrying 303 passengers, including 96 from Gujarat, was grounded by French authorities in Vatry on December 21 over suspicions of human smuggling. A subsequent court order on December 24 released passengers, with only 276, including 72 from Gujarat, landing in Mumbai.
Among the list of Indian passengers sent back, a copy of which TOI possesses, is a child born on August 2, 2021, from Gujarat, identified as an unaccompanied minor at Vatry airport. The source revealed that agents from Gujarat’s Mehsana and Gandhinagar facilitating illegal emigrations often establish fake families, with unrelated people posing as couples carrying someone else’s children.

This strategy aims to increase the likelihood of obtaining US asylum. “A couple with children is likely to get US asylum more easily,” the source said.
The investigation contemplates various scenarios, including instances where agents might have moved the child’s parents first or where children are sent ahead to secure citizenship, allowing their parents to follow and apply for the same status. Besides the two-year-old, the flight included a ten-year-old and two 17-year-old boys listed as unaccompanied minors.

US Customs and Border Protection data reflects a concerning trend, with 730 unaccompanied Indian children found abandoned on US borders between 2020 and 2023, marking a significant 233% increase from 2020. Most of these children are between 10 and 14 years, but there have been instances of kids as young as four being found abandoned. In October 2023 alone, 78 children were discovered at borders, 73 on the Mexico border, known as the “donkey route”, and five on the Canada border.

BREAKING: First Visuals of Airbus A340 detained in France with 303 Indians, lands in Mumbai | TOI

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