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In this photo released by New Zealand Defence Force, New Zealand tourists line up as they prepare to board a RNZAF hercules at Magenta Airport in Noumea, New Caledonia, on 21 May New Zealand Defence Force Department via AP/Alamy
New Caledonia

Australia and New Zealand evacuate citizens from French territory amid major unrest

Six people have been killed, including two police officers, and hundreds have been injured.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW Zealand are evacuating their citizens from the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia amid major unrest that has seen six people killed.

The Australian military has flown 115 passengers out on two flights and a French government flight is expected to evacuate another 100 stranded passengers today.

Six people have been killed, including two police officers, and hundreds have been injured during recent armed clashes, looting and arson in New Caledonia.

The deadliest unrest in four decades has been blamed on French plans to give voting rights to thousands of non-Indigenous residents. Indigenous Kanaks, who suffered from strict segregation policies and widespread discrimination under French rule and have long sought independence, fear the move will marginalise their votes. 

French authorities said the violence, which on 13 erupted May, has now eased since 1,050 troops, tactical police and national security reinforcements from Paris were deployed, including to “highly sensitive” areas.

Nevertheless, two primary schools and 300 cars in a dealership were torched in the territory’s capital Noumea overnight, according to the local mayor’s office.

Police have arrested more than 280 “rioters” in the unrest. Local prosecutors say around 400 shops and businesses have been damaged. 

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to land tomorrow in New Caledonia, where the unrest has raised new questions about Macron’s handling of France’s colonial legacy.

Many Kanaks, who make up about 40 percent of the population, oppose the plan to extend voting rights to those who have lived in the territory for at least 10 years.

But anti-independence representatives want it pushed through.

Kanak separatists, some masked and wielding homemade catapults, are manning multiple makeshift roadblocks, including on the main route to the international airport. 


Australian Pacific minister Pat Conroy said 84 of the passengers who were flown on two Royal Australian Airforce C-130 Hercules late yesterday from the capital Noumea to the Australian east coast city of Brisbane were Australian citizens.

Conroy did not say what nationalities were among the remaining 31 passengers but he said Australia had reciprocal arrangements with Canada and Japan to help their citizens in crises.

More than 200 other Australians were registered with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs to leave the South Pacific territory, where a 12-day state of emergency has been declared.

“We’ve prioritised the elderly, the pregnant and the most vulnerable,” Conroy told Nine Network television.

A New Zealand Defence Force C-130 Hercules flew 48 passengers “with the most pressing needs” from Noumea to the New Zealand city of Auckland last night, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement.

A French-operated flight will bring stranded New Zealanders home via Brisbane later today, according to the statement. The New Zealand military will fly the Brisbane-Auckland leg.

Around 265 New Zealanders want to leave New Caledonia.

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