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Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. Unlike the Crown Dependencies and Gibraltar, it is also a part of the European Union, as are many of the nearby islands, including the larger and nearby Guadeloupe, though unlike the latter, it does not utilise the Euro. Montserrat is fairly small by Caribbean standards. At 102km2, its area is just 6% that of Guadeloupe.

The island is mostly known these days for being the victim of a catastrophic volcanic eruption in 1997 that destroyed the capital (and main settlement) Plymouth, and the islands only commercial airport (and link with the outside world). Over half of the island was declared an "exclusion zone", most of which had been turned into a moonscape of pyroclastic flows, punctured only by the burnt top floors of some buildings protruding from the mud and rock flows which reached depths of up to 12 metres.

Help from the UK government was grudging at best, and there has been minimal attempts to salvage the situation. Following the disaster, more than half the island's population fled to neighbouring countries and territories, the UK mainland, or the USA. The island did not regain a functioning airstrip until 2005, when a modest facility opened near the village of St. John's. The government has been relocated to Brades, a village of around 1,000 people. As of 2008 the islands population recovered to 5,800, from a low of less than 4,000 at the time of the eruption, but far below the ~10,000 who resided there before 1997.

There has been no attempt to rehabilitate the exclusion zone due to a mixture of genuine concerns, an impoverished local government, and British indifference.

Though the volcano remains active, the whole island is effectively volcanic, with the ash covered areas no more or less seismically active than the rest of the island (they were in the most direct path of the last eruption, that doesn't make them active in and of themselves, nor does it necessarily mean they would be in the path of subsequent eruptions), and thus at the very least could be useful for agriculture, as volcanic soil is extremely rich. Such a programme could help rebuilt the island's economy, which is effectively dead in the water, and also drastically improve the health and social cohesion of the population.

Alas, the Montserrat government is almost completely dependent on a modest £25m per year grant from mainland Britain, which keeps the state institutions and the population on an indefinite life support. This means the government has no resources to dedicate to development, and exists in a de-facto hand-to-mouth existence. Poverty and unemployment are crippling, and the only employer of any scale is the government itself.

Britain meanwhile, has little interest in long term re-rehabilitation of the territory. It has accepted refugees from the island as permanent residents in the UK, but has no long-term strategy for helping the island properly rebuild socially, economically and physically beyond a "band-aid" approach to tackle immediate short term problems.

Despite this, the surviving part of the island is spectacularly beautiful, and whole territory has great potential, though for now it remains a community on not-quite-enough life support.

From Liberapedia, a Wikia wiki.

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