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Australia And New Zealand Evacuate Numerous Citizens From New Caledonia

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The Australian military conducted two flights evacuating 115 people from the turbulent French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, while a French government flight was anticipated to evacuate another 100 stranded passengers on Wednesday, as stated by an Australian government minister.

In recent armed clashes, looting, and arson in New Caledonia, six individuals, including two police officers, have lost their lives, with hundreds sustaining injuries.

The unrest erupted on May 13 amidst discussions in the French legislature in Paris about potential amendments to the French Constitution regarding voter lists in New Caledonia. Concerns have been raised that these amendments may favor pro-France politicians and further marginalize the Kanaks, a group that historically suffered from segregation and discrimination.

French President Emmanuel Macron is slated to arrive in New Caledonia on Thursday, where the Indigenous population has long sought independence. The recent unrest has cast a spotlight on Macron’s approach to addressing France’s colonial legacy.

Of the passengers flown on two Royal Australian Airforce C-130 Hercules from Noumea to Brisbane, 84 were Australian citizens, according to Pacific Minister Pat Conroy. It remains unspecified what nationalities the remaining 31 passengers held, although Australia has reciprocal arrangements with Canada and Japan for aiding their citizens in crisis situations.

Over 200 other Australians were registered with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to depart from New Caledonia, where a state of emergency has been declared for 12 days.

Conroy indicated that France was planning additional flights to Brisbane on Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, a New Zealand Defense Force C-130 Hercules transported 48 passengers “with the most pressing needs” from Noumea to Auckland, as reported by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

A French-operated flight is scheduled to bring stranded New Zealanders home via Brisbane on Wednesday, with the New Zealand military facilitating the Brisbane-Auckland leg. Approximately 265 New Zealanders expressed a desire to leave New Caledonia.

Meanwhile, Australian tourist Malisa Plesa remained in a Noumea hotel on Wednesday, despite hoping for evacuation by the Australian Air Force on Tuesday.

Fadi Chemali, another Australian tourist, was among the passengers on the initial Australian military flight to Brisbane. Chemali and his family had been vacationing for a week before the riots erupted, spending eight days trying to secure a way back home.

The road to New Caledonia’s international airport remained closed on Wednesday.

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