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France evacuates tourists from riot-hit New Caledonia

IANS | May 25, 2024 03:50 PM

PARIS: France has begun evacuating tourists from its overseas territory of New Caledonia after days of unrest in the Pacific archipelago.

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

A state of emergency has been in place in New Caledonia since last week after a wave of riots that has left seven people dead and hundreds detained.

France has deployed additional security forces to the archipelago. Australia and New Zealand began evacuating their residents earlier this week, with Nouméa airport still closed to all commercial flights.

The protests began in response to proposed electoral reforms which would give French nationals the right to vote in provincial elections after ten years of residency in the territory.

The indigenous Kanak population of New Caledonia, which has long campaigned for independence, accused Paris of pushing ahead with the controversial reform without considering strong opposition among the majority of the territory's residents.

On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron, on a visit to the territory, said he would pause the reform until the situation calms down and political talks can be resumed.

In three referendums in 2018, 2020 and 2021, the inhabitants of the former French colony voted in favour of remaining part of France. However, since the last vote, boycotted by the separatists, talks on a new status have stalled.

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