27 Nov 2015

Wallis remains cut off amid airport row

3:09 pm on 27 November 2015

Wallis and Futuna remains cut off as the only international airline flying there has cancelled today's and tomorrow's flights amid an airport protest.

Disgruntled locals of Hihifo have blocked the airport since Monday as they insist that the airport company hire two locals because the airport is built on customary land.

According to the public broadcaster the chiefs have asked the French overseas minister, George Pau-Langevin, to send a mediator.

On Wednesday, the territory's prefect 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.

The prefect has called for a renewed dialogue but says a 1959 land purchase deal makes 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, however a small plane for a medical evacuation could leave Wallis for Noumea.