David Blunkett to ABC Television in Australia on Friday:
"We always wished that we had a Christmas Island because it would have made it (processing) simpler and easier to deal with. Processing claims offshore makes sense because asylum seekers do not have the same access to appeal mechanisms as those who make it to the mainland."
"If you can do it (process claims) elsewhere, you can then return people more easily to their country of origin. It would have avoided a situation ... where they could prolong their claims and counter-claims for months, in some cases years."
For those of you who do not know about Christmas Island, it is 50 sq km of Australian territory 2,600 km north west of Perth, but only 500 km south of Jakarta. It has long been a landing zone for migrants intent on reaching Australian territory and applying for asylum. However, in 2001 it was excised from Australia's 'migration zone', the terriroty where it was neccesary for a non-citizen to hold a visa in order to legally enter and remain. Thus asylum seekers on the island have no right to apply for a visa or recourse to the Australian courts. They may however apply for UNHCR refugee status.
Thus Christmas Island, together with other excised territories such as Papua New Guinea and Nauru and Manus Islands, were able to be used for the rapid processing and easy exclusion of unwanted asylum seekers. It also allowed successive governments to portray the 'boat people', even though they remain a small minority of Australia's asylum seekers, as asylum bogeymen and women.