For the Pacific island sometimes called "Christmas Island", see Kiritimati.
Christmas island is of important scientific value as it appears to have been uninhabited until the late 19th century, so many unique fauna and flora exist which have developed independently from human interference. Among the best-known denizens is a species of red crab, that numbered some 60 million on the island as of 2003.
The capital is The Settlement.
During 2001, Christmas Island received a large number of refugees coming by boat, most of them from the Middle East and intending to apply for asylum in Australia. One of these boats, the MS Tampa, resulted in a diplomatic standoff between Australia, Norway and Indonesia. The vessel held 420 refugees from Afghanistan, 13 from Sri Lanka and five from Indonesia. The standoff eventually led to the asylum seekers being transported to the small country of Nauru for processing. Another boatload of illegal immigrants was taken from Christmas Island to Papua New Guinea for processing, after it was claimed that many of the adult refugees threw their children into the water, apparently in protest of being turned away. This was later proven to be a lie.
John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, later passed legislation through the Australian Parliament which excludes Christmas Island from Australia's Immigration Zone, meaning that refugees arriving there can not automatically apply for refugee status, allowing the Australian navy to turn back boatloads of illegal immigrants.
Christmas Island has the top-level Internet DNS domain ".cx", which is popular among Internet gambling sites and other operations because the operators won't disclose registrant's personal information.
From the CIA World Factbook 2000.