France Evacuates Tourists from New Caledonia Amidst Riots

France Evacuates Tourists from New Caledonia Amidst Riots

PARIS: France has begun evacuating tourists from its overseas territory of New Caledonia after several days of unrest in the Pacific Islands, reported the German News Agency (dpa).

French tourists were flown to Australia and New Zealand on military aircraft on Saturday, according to the BMFTV news station. They will then return to their home country on commercial flights.

A state of emergency has been declared in New Caledonia since last week following a wave of riots that resulted in seven deaths and hundreds of arrests.

France has deployed additional security forces to the islands. Australia and New Zealand started evacuating their citizens earlier this week, with Noumea Airport remaining closed to all commercial flights.

The protests began in response to proposed electoral reforms that would grant voting rights to French citizens in provincial elections after ten years of residency in the territory.

The indigenous Kanak people of New Caledonia, who have long fought for independence, accuse Paris of pushing forward with the controversial reforms despite strong opposition from the majority of the territory’s residents.

During a visit to the territory on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron stated he would suspend the reforms until the situation calms down and political discussions can resume.

In three referendums held in 2018, 2020, and 2021, the residents of the former French colony voted to remain part of France. However, since the last vote, which was boycotted by separatists, discussions on a new status have stalled.

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