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Australia, New Zealand Evacuate Citizens From Violence-Hit New Caledonia

21.05.2024 12:57

Evacuation comes after French forces launched operation to reopen airport in French colony's capital Noumea.

Australia and New Zealand are evacuating their citizens from the violence-hit French colony of New Caledonia.

"We've received clearance for two Australian government-assisted departure flights today for Australian and other tourists to depart New Caledonia," Foreign Minister Penny Wong said.

She added: "Passengers are being prioritized based on need. We continue to work on further flights."

Two C-130 Hercules planes of the Australia air force arrived at Magenta Airport in New Caledonia's capital Noumea on Tuesday.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said a government plane will bring home its citizens from New Caledonia who "have faced a challenging few days."

"The situation in New Caledonia remains dynamic, and New Zealand officials are continuing to work with French counterparts and other partners especially Australia to understand what is needed to ensure the safety of our people there," Peters said.

The evacuation of foreigners from New Caledonia came as French President Emmanuel Macron convened a third defense and national security council meeting on Monday over riots in the overseas territory of New Caledonia.

The unrest has gripped New Caledonia for a week, prompting Paris to declare a state of emergency.

French territorial High Commission on the island had said that more than 1,000 police officers, gendarmes, and civil security agents were sent to assist the local forces to reinstate order.

The French forces launched an operation on Sunday to regain access to some parts of the capital Noumea and also to reopen the airport.

At least six people, including two gendarmes, were killed during the riots, and 240 rioters arrested, the statement noted.

The unrest was sparked by a constitutional review initiated by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin in New Caledonia.

If the changes are adopted, French nationals who have lived on the island for at least 10 years will be eligible to vote in local elections.

Locals, however, are concerned that such changes will dilute the indigenous Kanak population's vote. -

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