Australian migration zone
The Australian migration zone refers to the parts of Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n territory where a non citizen must hold a visa
Visa (document)
A visa is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter the territory for which it was issued, subject to permission of an immigration official at the time of actual entry. The authorization may be a document, but more commonly it is a stamp endorsed in the applicant's passport...

 to legally enter and remain. It includes all states and mainland territories, plus some external territories, at the mean low water mark.

In September 2001 the Federal Parliament passed the Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) Act and the Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) (Consequential Provisions) Act. These pieces of legislation excised certain external territories from the migration zone, for purposes relating to unauthorised arrivals. These territories included Ashmore Island, Cartier Islands
Cartier Islands
Cartier Island is an uninhabited and unvegetated sand cay in a platform reef in the Timor Sea north of Australia and south of Indonesia. It is located at 12°31'S 123°33'E, on the edge of the Sahul Shelf, about 300 kilometres off the north west coast of Western Australia, 200 kilometres south of the...

, Christmas Island
Christmas Island
The Territory of Christmas Island is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It is located northwest of the Western Australian city of Perth, south of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and ENE of the Cocos Islands....

, and Cocos Islands.

Unauthorised arrival

In an excised area, an unauthorised arrival has no right to apply for a visa. Asylum seekers who land in an excised area of Australian territory, may apply for refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

 status with the UNHCR. However, Australia has no obligation to grant them a visa to settle permanently in Australia (as opposed to temporary protection) and they have no recourse to Australian courts.

The acts also included the powers to move unauthorised arrivals to another country where their claim for protection could be considered. These changes allowed for thousands of asylum seekers to be moved to immigration detention facilities
Australian immigration detention facilities
Australian immigration detention facilities comprise a number of different facilities throughout Australia and one on the Australian territory of Christmas Island. They are used to house people who are detained under Australia’s policy of mandatory detention and previously under the now defunct...

 on Christmas Island
Christmas Island
The Territory of Christmas Island is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It is located northwest of the Western Australian city of Perth, south of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and ENE of the Cocos Islands....

, Nauru
Nauru detention centre
The detention center on the South Pacific island nation of Nauru was based on a Statement of Principles, signed on 10 September 2001 by the President of Nauru, René Harris, and Australia's then Minister for Defence, Peter Reith. The statement opened the way to establish a detention center for up...

, and Manus Island
Manus Island
Manus Island is part of Manus Province in northern Papua New Guinea and is the largest island of the Admiralty Islands. It is the fifth largest island in Papua New Guinea with an area of 2,100 km², measuring around 100 km × 30 km. According to the 2000 census, Manus Island had a...


In subsequent years the government excised many islands, sometimes attempting to do so retroactively after boat people
Boat people
Boat people is a term that usually refers to refugees, illegal immigrants or asylum seekers who emigrate in numbers in boats that are sometimes old and crudely made...

 had already landed.

The excising of islands from the Australian migration zone remains a very controversial aspect of Australian immigration policy
Australian immigration policies
After Federation 1901, a set of immigration policies were put into place to either encourage or restrict immigration into Australia.- White Australian Policy :From 1901 to 1973, the White Australia policy was put into place to keep all non-white immigrants out....

. Refugee advocates argue that Australia is not meeting its obligations under international law to protect refugees. This was not accepted by the Howard Government
Howard Government
The Howard Government refers to the federal Executive Government of Australia led by Prime Minister John Howard. It was made up of members of the Liberal–National Coalition, which won a majority of seats in the Australian House of Representatives at four successive elections. The Howard Government...

, which contended that international law obliged Australia to provide temporary protection only and not necessarily a permanent settlement.

However, the Rudd Government
Rudd Government
The Rudd Government refers to the federal Executive Government of Australia of the Australian Labor Party from 2007 to 2010, led by Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. The Rudd Government commenced on 3 December 2007, when Rudd was sworn in along with his ministry...

 abolished the temporary protection visa
Temporary protection visa
A Temporary Protection Visa was an Australian visa document introduced by the Howard Government on 20 October 1999, which was issued to persons who had been recognised as refugees fleeing persecution. The scheme was controversial, with the government claiming it was a necessary response to the...

 scheme in 2008. The practice of diverting boat-borne arrivals to Christmas Island remained, effectively disallowing judicial review
Judicial review
Judicial review is the doctrine under which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary. Specific courts with judicial review power must annul the acts of the state when it finds them incompatible with a higher authority...

. In 2010, a landmark High Court
High Court of Australia
The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, has the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and...

 ruling found that the processing procedures on Christmas Island were unlawful and unconstitutional.

Effect of excision on sovereignty

At times there has been confusion over the effect on Australia's sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 over the excised area. Various constitution authorities have voiced the opinion that excising territory from the migration zone does not affect Australia's sovereignty.

The 'excision' of areas from the migration zone has no impact on the rights of Australian citizens and permanent residents to travel to and remain in that area, and no documentation is required to travel between these areas and the rest of Australia. Nor is there any impact on the rights of those non-citizens who arrive in these territories with valid visas.

For example, the territory of Norfolk Island
Norfolk Island
Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. The island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia, but it enjoys a large degree of self-governance...

, although under Australian sovereignty, is entirely outside the migration zone, as are the uninhabited territories of Heard Island and McDonald Islands
Heard Island and McDonald Islands
The Heard Island and McDonald Islands are an Australian external territory and volcanic group of barren Antarctic islands, about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica. The group's overall size is in area and it has of coastline...

 (in the Southern Ocean
Southern Ocean
The Southern Ocean comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be south of 60°S latitude and encircling Antarctica. It is usually regarded as the fourth-largest of the five principal oceanic divisions...

) and the Australian Antarctic Territory
Australian Antarctic Territory
The Australian Antarctic Territory is a part of Antarctica. It was claimed by the United Kingdom and placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1933. It is the largest territory of Antarctica claimed by any nation...


See also

  • Australian permanent resident
    Australian permanent resident
    Australian permanent residents are residents of Australia who hold permanent residency visas but are not citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia....

  • Mandatory detention in Australia
    Mandatory detention in Australia
    Mandatory detention in Australia concerns the Australian federal government's policy and system of mandatory immigration detention active from 1992 to date, pursuant to which all persons entering the country without a valid visa are compulsorily detained and sometimes subject to deportation.In the...

  • Pacific Solution
    Pacific Solution
    The Pacific Solution was the name given to the Australian government policy of transporting asylum seekers to detention camps on small island nations in the Pacific Ocean, rather than allowing them to land on the Australian mainland...

  • Permanent Resident of Norfolk Island visa
    Permanent Resident of Norfolk Island visa
    A Permanent Resident of Norfolk Island visa is a type of Australian immigration visa granted on arrival in Australia to a non-citizen who is a permanent resident of Norfolk Island....

External links

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