Repatriated Australian travellers
Australian travellers have made it home safe from New Caledonia where riots have claimed six lives. Image by Patrick Hamilton/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime, law and justice

Another 103 Australians evacuated from New Caledonia

May 22, 2024

Another group of 103 Australians stranded in New Caledonia following deadly riots has been repatriated, meaning more than half the people who want to leave the French territory have gotten home.

A French plane arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday night carrying 103 Australian citizens and family members after 84 Australians and 24 other nationals were repatriated to the Queensland capital on Tuesday.

A total of 187 Australians and their family members had now returned from New Caledonia, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a post on social media platform X. 

There are about 500 Australians in New Caledonia and some 300 in total had registered their interest in coming home with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Pacific Minister Pat Conroy told ABC TV on Wednesday.

Australia would continue to work with the French government on further flights, Mr Conroy said.

“The primary plan is more French flights but as I’ve indicated publicly, we do have contingency plans and we do have planes on standby should there be an issue with that,” he said.

Those on board the first two flights were filled with relief after days of failing to find a way off the island, said Fadi Chemali, who was on the first plane to reach Australia.

Rod Slade and Vicki Murray
 Rob Slade has been reunited with partner Vicki Murray after she arrived in Brisbane from Noumea. Image by Patrick Hamilton/AAP PHOTOS 

“Everyone clapped once we landed, we were all just so happy,” he told AAP after landing in Brisbane. 

Mr Chemali had been holidaying with his wife and daughter for a week before rioting erupted and spent eight days scrambling to find a way home. 

“I didn’t see any of the violence up close but we heard a lot, including gunshots from where we were, it has been fairly intense.” 

At least six people have died in the territory and hundreds have been injured since violence broke out last Monday. 

Traveller Fadi Chemali (left) arrives from New Caledonia
 Fadi Chemali (left) and his family spent more than a week trying to find a way off New Caledonia. Image by Russell Freeman/AAP PHOTOS 

French troops are trying to stem further unrest, with buildings razed, shops looted and roads barricaded. 

Australia’s Consul-General in New Caledonia, Annelise Young, posted on X that her team had been working round the clock with officials in Canberra and Paris and closely with French authorities to ensure safe passage for Australian tourists.

New rules changing who is allowed to participate in the nation’s elections have been slammed by the indigenous Kanaks, who fear their vote will be diluted by thousands of French nationals who have moved to the island.

About 270 rioters have been arrested and a 12-hour curfew imposed from 6pm to 6am. 

Tourists line up in Noumea to board a plane home
 Australia and New Zealand sent planes to New Caledonia after clearance to bring citizens home. Image by AP PHOTO 

France has sent more than 1000 security personnel, with hundreds more to join to help quell the unrest. 

The reopening of the international airport for commercial flights will be reassessed on Thursday. 

Australia has urged people to reconsider travel to New Caledonia. 

Those there have been advised to limit their movement.