Inside the world’s most remote island with just 800 people living there

Ascension Island, a small volcanic island in the southern Atlantic Ocean, has been picked by Home Secretary Suella Braverman as a fullback option to house Britain’s illegal migrants – should the Rwanda scheme fail. 

Grouped among the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha, the island is known for its rugged landscape and volcanic past. 

Ascension Island is one world’s most remote, sitting around 1,000 miles from the African coast and about 1,400 miles from South America.

Measuring only 34 square miles, the logistics of housing thousands of asylum seekers on Ascension may prove a challenge.

Though British officials hope the fact that the island is on British soil might help thwart legal challenges like those which have threatened to sink the Rwanda scheme. 

READ MORE: No10 to punish anyone hiding illegal migrants in ‘vital’ new crackdown

Life on Ascension Island

The climate on Ascension Island is subtropical desert. It has reasonably dry weather with little rain throughout the year.

Temperatures have remained pretty stable, with average highs in the mid-20s Celsius for the population of around 800 people residing there. Reports suggest people from St Helena, America and the UK call the remote island home. 

According to its government, it is dubbed a “working island” which means those living there are either present to fulfil a job, or accompany someone doing so. 

It says there is “no right of abode”, which may explain why there is just a handful of shops. But, the island does have a gym, swimming pools and leisure facilities. 

The pace of life, the government says, is slow and relaxed – with barely any noise from cars. Those temporarily residing on the island may also find their mobile phone carriers do not work, with just one company in operation. 

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Its place in history

Ascension Island has a unique and diversified flora and fauna despite its isolation. It is well-known for green sea turtle breeding grounds and seabird colonies, including the rare Ascension frigatebird.

And, because of its strategic location, the island has historically been important as a halting point for sailors on lengthy sea voyages. It became significant during the age of transatlantic cable transmission.

Furthermore, during World War II, Ascension Island assisted Allied forces in the Atlantic. During the Cold War, the United States established a military presence on Ascension Island. The island’s Wideawake Airfield became a refueling and staging base for aircraft during the Falklands War in 1982.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) also operates from the island, contributing to its international importance.

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The island also harbours a grim past, with Comfortless Cove on the eastern coast of the island known to be the resting place of numerous people who lost their lives on this shoreline because of Yellow Fever in the peak era of British colonial expansion. 

Legend has it that when someone was diagnosed with the illness, they were directed to this beach to dig their own grave and rest in it overnight.

Should the poor individual survive until the next morning, they were considered safe. Otherwise, preparations for their burial were made.

Nearby visitors can find the Bonetta Cemetery, named after HMS Bonetta which brought yellow fever victims to Ascension in 1838, which contains a number of graves of persons who died as a result of the disease.

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