Ahu Tongariki Easter Island moai statue

False news about Easter Island immigration law spread world-wide

Today’s news at Easter Island about the new immigration laws are undoubtedly huge. Surprisingly, the great majority of reputable news agencies all over the world are missing the whole point.

The misunderstanding

News websites and agencies worldwide are reporting on Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, is applying new laws to limit tourism, since tourism supposedly have a bad impact on the local society and culture. The only law that is being reported is that tourists now only can stay for a maximum of 30 days. This is in fact entirely true.

There is one thing that is not being explained in these articles though; typically a tourist would stay at Easter Island for 4-5 days, and very few stay for more than a week. Virtually no one would stay for more than 30 days. This means that this new law would be quite useless as a means to limiting tourism.

Below are a few of the news agencies and websites that focus on a limit to tourism:

Euronews | Easter Island restricts tourists visits
Independent | Easter Island Is Limiting The Number Of Days Tourists Can Stay
Digital Journal | Chile to restrict tourists and non-locals on Easter Island
Travel + Leisure | Easter Island Is Limiting Tourism in an Attempt to Save Its Thousand-year-old Culture
Radio NZ News | Rapa Nui limiting visitor time to stop overcrowding
Vice News | Locals Say too Many Tourists Risk Ruining Easter Island’s Iconic Head Statues
Condé Nast Traveler | Easter Island Sets Tourist Limit

Rano Raraku moai statues
Easter Island is known for its many moai statues, built by the ancestors of the current inhabitants in ancient times.


The truth

The new laws are not limiting to tourism, but to immigration – especially immigration from continental Chile. They have been applied to prevent overpopulation, and to protect the fragile culture and lifestyle of the island. Around half of the 7750 residents of Easter Island are Chileans who have moved in from the continent. The strong influences from continental Chile makes it harder for the fragile rapa nui culture to survive, which is why these new laws have been applied. From now on, the possibility of moving to Easter Island is a privilege exclusive to those that have family there, or that are invited over under a work contract.

This, if anything, is bigger news than what most news sources have been reporting on, because it’s a case of a country actually restricting its own countrymen from moving to a certain part of their own country. The case of the rapa nui culture is an extreme case that calls for extreme measurements.

Read more about Easter Island entry and immigration laws.

Rapa nui dancers cruise ship tourism Easter Island
Rapa Nui has a unique culture, only carried on by a few thousand people.

False news about Easter Island spread easily

Interestingly enough, something similar happened a few years back, when news were spread around the globe about an apparent discovery exposing that the “Easter Island heads” also have bodies, which is something the outside world has known for 300 years.

It’s probably quite hard for news channels to check facts when the articles are about Easter Island because of the island’s small size and population. We can only hope that news agencies and websites check their sources more often than what the latest days have shown us.

Marcus Edensky

Marcus is owner of local Rapa Nui travel agency Easter Island Travel. He is one of the few foreigners that has learnt to speak Rapa Nui fluently. He is founder of local Easter Island newspaper Tāpura Re'o - the only newspaper written entirely in Rapa Nui language.

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