The Zone of Excision: Australia’s Island Screen
In the case of Australia, recent governmental actions have generated a particularly ambiguous situation. Starting in September 2001, Australia “excised” a large number of islands from its official “migration zone.” As a result of this legislation, Australia’s northern islands have become a realm apart, still part of the country but not subject to its laws as far as migration and residency are concerned. Specifically, a person arriving at one of the excised islands has no right to apply for an Australian visa, and can be summarily expelled to another jurisdiction or even another country—a policy much criticized by refugee advocates. It has also been questioned for possibly compromising Australian sovereignty over this insular realm.
The Australian policy of excision stems from its desire to prevent undocumented immigrants from reaching its shores. If boats carrying refugees or illegal migrants reach one of the excised islands, their passengers are generally shipped to detention centers. One of the largest islands in the excision zone, Christmas Island, now harbors a growing detention facility of its own. On March 6, 2010, the Sydney Morning Herald outlined a report claiming that “the detainee population at Christmas Island is expected to reach 5000 within the next four years, sparking fears that Christmas Island may soon resemble a penal colony.”
Christmas Island is an interesting place in its own right, as we shall see tomorrow in the final post on Australian islands.
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Christmas Island: Land Crabs and Detainees »