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Easter Island to curb immigrants

25 October 09 17:47 GMT
By Gideon Long
BBC News, Santiago

The inhabitants of Easter Island in the South Pacific have voted to restrict immigration amid overpopulation fears.

More than 90% of those who voted in this weekend's referendum said they were worried about an influx of residents from Chile.

Chile has administered the remote island outpost, famous for its carved stone statues, since the 19th century.

The referendum was organised by the Chilean government, which says the island is struggling to cope.

Constitutional change

With a population of just 4,000 people, Easter Island might not sound that crowded.

But the island is just 20 miles (32km) from one end to the other.

It is also more than 2,000 miles from the Chilean mainland, which generates all sorts of problems.

Disposing of rubbish in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way, for example, is becoming increasingly difficult.

Some 50,000 tourists visit the island each year to see the famous Maoi, the enigmatic carved stone heads that are dotted around the island.

As tourism has increased, hundreds of Chileans have moved in from the mainland to work in hotels, bars and as taxi drivers.

The Chilean parliament must now approve a change to the constitution to bring the new rules into effect.

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