English and Irish colonists from St. Kitts first settled on Montserrat in 1632; the first African slaves arrived three decades later. The British and French fought for possession of the island for most of the 18th century, but it finally was confirmed as a British possession in 1783. The island’s sugar plantation economy was converted to small farm landholdings in the mid-19th century. Much of this island was devastated and two-thirds of the population fled abroad because of the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano that began on 18 July 1995. Montserrat has endured volcanic activity since, with the last eruption occurring in July 2003.


Location: Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, southeast of Puerto Rico
Geographic coordinates: 16 45 N, 62 12 W
Population: 5,164 (July 2012 est.)

note: an estimated 8,000 refugees left the island following the resumption of volcanic activity in July 1995; some have returned

Age structure: 0-14 years: 26.9% (male 717/female 665)

15-64 years: 65 66.6% (male 1,648/female 1,777)

65 years and over:  6.5% (male 208/female 125) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Montserrat

Dependency status: overseas territory of the UK
Government type: NA
Telephones – main lines in use: 2,600 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 4,200 (2008)
Telephone system: general assessment: modern and fully digitalized

domestic: NA

international: country code – 1-664; landing point for the East Caribbean Fibre System (ECFS) optic submarine cable with links to 13 other islands in the eastern Caribbean extending from the British Virgin Islands to Trinidad

Airports: 21(2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 1

under 914 m: 1 (2012)

Roadways:  note: volcanic eruptions that began in 1995 destroyed most of the 227 km road system; a new road infrastructure has been built on the north end of the island (2008)
Military branches: no regular military forces; Royal Montserrat Police Force (2011)
Manpower available for military service: Males age 16-49: 1,353 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: Males age 16-49: 1,135 (2010 est.)


Severe volcanic activity, which began in July 1995, has put a damper on this small, open economy. A catastrophic eruption in June 1997 closed the airports and seaports, causing further economic and social dislocation. Two-thirds of the 12,000 inhabitants fled the island. Some began to return in 1998, but lack of housing limited the number. The agriculture sector continued to be affected by the lack of suitable land for farming and the destruction of crops. Prospects for the economy depend largely on developments in relation to the volcanic activity and on public sector construction activity. The UK has launched a three-year $122.8 million aid program to help reconstruct the economy. Half of the island is expected to remain uninhabitable for another decade.

Transnational Issues:

Disputes – international: none
Illicit drugs: transhipment point for South American narcotics destined for the US and Europe