Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in

Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in


Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in

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SYDNEY/PARIS (Reuters) - A thousand police arrived in New Caledonia from France and the streets were relatively calm after a week of unrest, the French High Commission said on Monday, but roads were blocked by protesters and the airport remained shut, stranding tourists.

Blockades of roads would continue, Field Action Co-ordination Cell, the activist group organising the protests in the French-ruled Pacific island, said in a statement, urging a peaceful approach.

Roadblocks were making it a challenge to get food supplies to stores in several areas or to provide secure travel for medical staff, New Caledonia government officials said, adding, however, that there were no shortages of supplies or staff.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said on Monday that "we are still a way of a return to normal".

Protests erupted last week, sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment approved in France that would change who is allowed to participate in elections, which local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.

Six people have been killed and the unrest has left a trail of burnt businesses and cars and looted shops, with road barricades restricting access to medicine and food. The business chamber said 150 companies had been looted and burnt.

Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the situation, in the French territory, which lies in the southwest Pacific, some 1,500 km (930 miles) east of Australia, is "deeply concerning".

A spokesperson for the US State Department last week condemned the violence and when asked on Monday to comment on the latest developments, said: "We encourage all parties to work to resolve ongoing tensions."

On Friday, the United States raised its travel advisory for New Caledonia to say that US citizens should "reconsider travel" there due to the unrest.

France's top official in the territory, Louis Le Franc, said on Sunday a police operation to regain control of the road from the capital Noumea to the international airport would take several days. Gendarmes had dismantled 76 roadblocks, the High Commission said on Monday.

Airline Aircalin said the airport would remain closed until Thursday.
Shares of Australian nickel miners were on the rise as underlying prices surged by 7% over the weekend due to unrest in New Caledonia, a key global supplier of the metal.


Pro-independence political parties say they want the French government to withdraw the electoral reform before they restart talks.

"We need strong actions (from the government) to calm the situation ... this is a political, not a security issue," said Dominique Fochi, secretary general of the pro-independence Caledonian Union.

Attal said that re-establishing order was a precondition to dialogue.

Albanese earlier told ABC radio his country was awaiting approval from French authorities to send an evacuation flight to pick up tourists stranded in New Caledonia hotels.

Around 300 Australians have registered with consular officials.

Around 3,200 people were waiting to leave or enter New Caledonia as commercial flights were cancelled due to the unrest that broke out last week, the local government said.

New Zealand defence aircraft were on standby and also awaiting the French go-ahead to repatriate nationals, its Foreign Minister Winston Peters wrote in a post on X on Sunday.