Australian government issues travel warning for New Caledonia

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Australians travelling to New Caledonia are being warned to exercise a high degree of caution as political demonstrations and protests against constitutional reform erupt in the French territory.

Two people have been killed, and hundreds injured in the violent riots, AFP has reported.

The protests erupted in response to a vote in France’s Assemblée Nationale to allow French citizens who have been residents of New Caledonia for 10 years voting rights.

The reform, which lawmakers argued was democratically fair, was passed 351 to 153.

The Australian government’s Smart Traveller website increased its level of advice for the Noumea metropolitan area, advising a high degree of caution due to protests and demonstrations.

“Political demonstrations and protests are occurring and may turn violent at short notice,” the website reads.

The office of the high commissioner, France’s top representative in New Caledonia, has said one death was caused by gunshot wounds linked to the protests, but gave no details on the second.

A curfew was issued for the Noumea metropolitan area from 6pm on Tuesday until 6am on Wednesday, and the Australian government warned there was the potential for demonstrations in other locations.

“Essential services are impacted and flights have been cancelled,” the Smart Traveller website read.

“The La Tontouta International Airport has closed.

“Avoid demonstrations, public gatherings and roadblocks.

“Minimise movement, monitor the media and follow the advice of local authorities.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has convened a defence and national security council meeting to discuss the riots.

On Wednesday, Anthony Albanese said Australia valued its relationship with both New Caledonia and the French State.

“We respect and support the process and the discussions under way between all parties,” the Prime Minister said.

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