On the night of June 23 to 24, buildings, including a police station and mayor’s office, were set ablaze in New Caledonia as the French Pacific territory was once again gripped by unrest.

It comes after seven independence activists linked to a group accused of orchestrating deadly riots last month in the French Pacific territory were sent to mainland France for pre-trial detention, a local prosecutor said, according to British media. 

“This transfer was organised during the night by means of a plane specially chartered for the mission,” prosecutor Yves Dupas said in a statement.

He added that the seven were sent to mainland France “due to the sensitivity of the procedure and in order to allow the investigations to continue in a calm manner, free of any pressure”.

The decision to transfer some defendants to detention centres in France has sparked outrage among the independence activists, who called the transfer a “political deportation.”

The situation remains particularly tense in New Caledonia after the arrest of eleven independence activists, suspected of orchestrating and planning the violence that has affected the archipelago since 13 May.

Riots, street barricades and looting broke out in New Caledonia last month over an electoral reform that would have allowed long-term residents to participate in local polls.

After France was plunged into frenzied campaigning in snap parliamentary elections, President Emmanuel Macron suspended the changes to voting rights in New Caledonia.

But the recent arrests threaten to further expose the divisions in the archipelago’s political landscape ahead of the first round of voting in the elections, to be held on 30 June. In New Caledonia, the elections have been unanimously deemed inopportune by political leaders from all sides.