Macron heading to New Caledonia as France deploys more troops amid unrest

Macron heading to New Caledonia as France deploys more troops amid unrest

French President Emmanuel Macron is heading to New Caledonia, the government has announced, as hundreds more security personnel will join the 1,500 reinforcements already on the ground after the worst unrest in the French Pacific territory in more than 30 years.

“He will go there tonight,” government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot said on Tuesday as she announced Macron’s trip.

Earlier, the High Commission of New Caledonia, which represents the French state in the territory, said that 600 personnel would be deployed in the coming hours to join those already sent from France.

“The return to calm continues throughout the territory,” the High Commission said in a statement, but added that the airport in the capital, Noumea, would remain closed to commercial flights, with the situation to be reviewed on Thursday.

The government has said about 3,200 people were waiting to leave or enter New Caledonia when flights were cancelled last week when violence broke out over French plans to amend voting laws to allow more recent arrivals to vote in provincial elections.

Six people were killed after makeshift blockades were set up on Noumea’s streets, cars and businesses set on fire and shops looted. The high commission said efforts were under way to clear the remaining barriers and remove the burned-out vehicles and other debris.

Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, sent their first military planes to New Caledonia to evacuate their nationals.

An Australian C-130 Hercules aircraft landed at Noumea’s Magenta airport, which usually handles domestic traffic, on Tuesday afternoon, the AFP news agency reported.

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