Court action as Wallis airport blockade continues

12:57 pm on 26 November 2015

The French authorities have gone to court in a bid to end the blockade of the airport on Wallis, which has been closed by disgruntled locals since Monday.

The public broadcaster says the territory's prefect has secured an order from the court of appeal in New Caledonia that the airport be opened immediately, threatening five Wallisian chiefs with a daily 900 US dollar fine each for non-compliance.

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Photo: AFP

The villagers insist that the airport company hire two locals because the airport is built on customary land.

The chiefs have now asked the French overseas minister, George Pau-Langevin, to send a mediator.

The prefect has reportedly produced a 1959 document showing that a former king sold 90 hectares for 27,000 US dollars, but making no mention of an obligation to hire people.

The territory's top leaders, including its representatives in the French legislature, are off-island, attending meetings in Paris.

The blockade has stranded hundreds of passengers and left the territory isolated for three days.