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‘Ready to fly’: Concern for trapped Aussies

Written by on May 20, 2024

Anthony Albanese says the Australian Defence Force is ready to fly in to rescue hundreds of Australians who are trapped in New Caledonia amid riots “when it is permitted to do so”.

Violent protests have broken in the French-controlled South Pacific territory out plans to change voting rules, with at least six people killed and many others injured.

There are 300 Australians registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who want to leave the island after the international airport was closed and roads were blockaded by authorities.

Mr Albanese urged those needing rescue to contact a 24-hour emergency support line and said there were troops waiting to provide assistance once they are granted access into the territory.

“We know that the situation there is deeply concerning. We’re doing everything possible to help Australians on the ground,” he told ABC Radio Perth on Monday.

“We are working with the French authorities. They’re advising at the moment that the situation on the ground is preventing flights.

“We continue to pursue approvals because the Australian Defence Force is ready to fly when it’s permitted to do so.”

Authorities in New Caledonia, which is located about 1200km off the east coast of Australia, have undertaken what they have called a “massive” mobilisation of security forces since unrest broke out over proposed reforms to the French Constitution that would change local voting laws.

Mr Albanese said Australia had been in contact with New Zealand to discuss next steps for citizens who are trapped in the territory and flagged that air force planes were waiting on standby.

“Defence is on alert, ready to take action to support Australians. At the moment, the airport is closed. So, the planes can’t get in. But air force have been on standby for the last 48 hours and they remain ready to provide that assistance to evacuate Australians who wish to leave,” he said.

The French government said more than 1800 security officers were already in the territory and that 500 reinforcements had been sent from France.

Ten people accused of organising the violence have been placed under house arrest, according to authorities.

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