Australia’s fresh travel warning for New Caledonia after state of emergency declared


Key Points
  • France declared a state of emergency after riots have resulted in four deaths and hundreds of injuries.
  • The turmoil began after France’s national assembly supported controversial changes to voting rules.
  • Indigenous Kanak leaders argue the changes will weaken their vote.
Australia has heightened travel warnings for New Caledonia as civil unrest forced the declaration of a state of emergency in the French territory.
France ordered troops to guard ports and the international airport in its Pacific territory of New Caledonia after the state of emergency began on Thursday that left four dead and hundreds wounded.
Turmoil erupted after France’s national assembly backed hotly-disputed changes to voting rolls that Indigenous leaders in New Caledonia say will dilute their vote.
The use of security forces and the ordering of a night-time curfew has failed to halt the worst violence seen in New Caledonia since the 1980s.
The Australian government has called for calm and has upgraded its travel advice, warning people to reconsider their need to travel.

“The government has also increased the overall level of advice for New Caledonia and now advises travellers to exercise a high degree of caution,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Thursday.

Pro-independence protesters have taken to the streets outside the Noumea courthouse in support of activists on trial for obstructing traffic and damaging property. Source: AFP / THEO ROUBY / AFP

The curfew remains in place in New Caledonia and the international airport has been closed.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham also called for calm and peace.
“We remain concerned by the present situation, by the distress faced by many in New Caledonia and urge those responsible for violence and disruption to cease,” he said.
Shops have been looted and public buildings torched during night-time violence. Hundreds of people including around 100 police and soldiers have been injured, French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said.
New Caledonia, which lies between Australia and Fiji, is one of several territories around the globe that remain part of France in the post-colonial era. Colonised by France from the second half of the nineteenth century, it has a special status, unlike its other overseas territories.
While it has on three occasions rejected independence in referendums, independence retains strong support among the indigenous Kanak people.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a resumption of political dialogue.

A woman raises a flag at a protest in New Caledonia.

New Caledonia’s indigenous Kanak leaders say changes will dilute their vote. Source: AFP / Theo Rouby

But the government approved a state of emergency from Thursday morning local time, spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot said.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told a crisis ministerial meeting that troops had been deployed to secure ports and the international airport and the government representative in New Caledonia has “banned TikTok”.
The airport is already closed to international flights.
Attal said the situation in New Caledonia was now “grave” but that the government priority was to “restore calm” so that a dialogue could be established.
Under the state of emergency, authorities will be able to enforce travel bans, house arrests and searches, Thevenot added.
Sources said that two radical pro-independence activists had been put under house arrest.
Nearly 1,800 law enforcement officers have been mobilised and a further 500 will reinforce them, she added.

Macron cancelled a planned trip to Normandy to chair a new emergency meeting on Thursday, the presidency said.



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