Christmas Island, tropical island (2001 pop. 1,508), 60 sq mi (155 sq km), an external territory of Australia, in the Indian Ocean c.200 mi (320 km) S of Java. The majority of the inhabitants are descendants of Chinese and Malays who came to work the extensive phosphate deposits. Much of the island is now a national park. The island was annexed by Great Britain in 1888 and became part of the former Straits Settlements in 1889. In 1958 it was ceded to Australia. The island has been used to detain and process Asian asylum seekers who are intercepted at sea.