In Galapagos Islands, Influx Prompts a Harsh Migration Policy
There is a single word that defines these islands: remote. Isolated from their ancestors, the animals and plants here adapted so that they could live and thrive in this unforgiving environment. The interaction of ocean currents, coastal conditions, and the islandsâ€™ volcanic origins continues to create a home for some of the strangest of biological life forms. Adaptation breeds greater variety and greater specialization. Now almost half of the species here occur nowhere else on the planet.
Blindingly colorful arrays of flora and fauna grow on ash so soft that land iguanas bask on it for hours under the equatorial sun. Penguins and giant tortoises share a sea so plentiful in aquatic life that the waters seem overcrowded. For centuries, that least isolationist of species, humans, left the Galapagos alone. While wildlife thrives here, humans have not. This is not a place for many people to live.
Until now. People keep coming, and they keep staying, challenging this solitary spirit â€” and prompting Ecuador, of which the Galapagos Islands are a province, to restrict new migrants and even force out current island residents who came from somewhere else. In an effort to help save the islands 600 miles into the Pacific Ocean, Ecuadorâ€™s controversial president, Rafael Correa, has adopted one of the strictest migration enforcement efforts in the history of mankind. It is as though the United States took the same unforgiving rules it uses to limit the influx of foreigners and used them to keep Americans from going to the state of Hawaii.
Few governments today keep their own people from living in a part of their own country; the ones that forcibly evict their own people tend to do so in the name of politics or religion. Ecuadorâ€™s harsh approach, in contrast, goes back to the challenging landscape that Charles Darwin famously noted.