French Tourists Evacuated From New Caledonia As Anti-Colonial Riots Grip Archipelago

The first evacuation flights carrying French tourists stranded in New Caledonia took off on Saturday amid ongoing anti-colonial riots that have claimed seven lives and left a trail of destruction across the French Pacific territory. The unrest, which began on May 13, has forced the closure of the international airport in the capital Noumea, with all commercial flights canceled until at least Tuesday.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government has been working to defuse the crisis, which erupted over planned voting reforms that indigenous Kanaks fear would dilute their influence in local elections. Macron flew to the archipelago on Thursday in an urgent bid to restore order, pledging that the reforms “will not be forced through.”

The evacuated tourists, who were unable to leave due to the airport closure, departed from the Magenta airfield in Noumea aboard military aircraft headed for Australia and New Zealand. They will then have to take commercial flights to mainland France. Australia and New Zealand had already begun repatriating their nationals on Tuesday.

The pro-independence FLNKS party continues to demand the withdrawal of voting reforms, calling this a “prerequisite to ending the crisis.” France has enforced a state of emergency, flying in hundreds of police and military reinforcements to restore order in the territory, which lies around 17,000 kilometers (10,600 miles) from mainland France.

The timing of the chaos fits with a pattern of explosive world events that have embroiled nations in the West and seem to keep manifesting across the globe.