Residents of French Polynesia hope and expect that French President Emmanuel Macron will apologize during his visit to their islands for the nuclear tests that France conducted there until 1996.
Macron is visiting the archipelago in the Pacific Ocean for four days. It belongs to France but has self-government in various areas. The president was received at the airport with wreaths of flowers and dancing.
According to studies, the radiation to which more than 100,000 inhabitants may have been exposed during decades when France tested nuclear weapons. In the 60s and 70s, this happened in the atmosphere, later underground. Subsequently, relatively many people on the islands were affected by leukaemia, lymphomas and other forms of cancer.
“We expect an apology from the president,” said Auguste Uebe-Carlson, the president of a local association of victims of nuclear tests. “Just as he has acknowledged that the colonization of Algeria was a crime, we expect him to declare it criminal, a form of colonization associated with nuclear power here in the Pacific.”
In addition to apologies, compensation arrangements are also expected. So far, only 63 residents have received compensation from the French government, research platform Disclosure reported earlier.
Apart from the suffering caused by the nuclear tests, essential items on the agenda are the islands’ strategic position, including vis-à-vis China, and the fight against the coronavirus. Macron called on all residents to be vaccinated. “That protects you, and you can hardly spread the virus anymore,” he said.