A Geography of Islands: Small Island Insularity

By Stephen A. Royle | Go to book overview

5

Islands

People and migration

People migrate when forced to do so by irresistible circumstances at home, such as war or natural disaster, or when they perceive some betterment in social and/or economic circumstances to be gained from choosing to move. There are often high rates of emigration from small islands. It is not being on an island per se that leads to migration; people leave because of the circumstances they face and given the constraints imposed by insularity, adverse circumstances frequently arise in the small island situation. Small islands are often fragile places at risk from natural disaster; they are powerless places and have often been subject to military interference and warfare; they often have insufficient resources for their inhabitants to be able to make a decent living. These factors would all encourage migration. Further, small island society can be confining and restrictive because of its scale; this can also encourage the young to seek fresh pastures elsewhere.

By contrast, and characterising the recent past, there are now some islands where economic upturn has led to a return of out-migrants, although sometimes return migration is for retirement with money that has been made off-island. Further, the attractions of a pleasant island environment have seen holiday and retirement migration to some islands close to the vibrant economies of developed continents, Corfu is one good example (Lazaridis, Poyago-Theotoky and King, 1999). Thus, the migration experience of small islands today is varied but, for many, it remains one of out-migration. King and Connell’s recent edited book on island migration has this in the introduction:

Key themes which echo through many accounts are the restricted resource base due to such factors as smallness, rugged terrain and climatic vagaries; high rates of demographic increase; and the lure of more wealthy and modern economies elsewhere.

(1999, p. 9)

To have people leave may not be totally negative to an island in that remittances from out-migrants can be an important source of income to those left behind. Migration can also relieve the pressure of population on resources. However, substantial out-migration from a small society can lead to difficulties of sustaining that society, and many small islands have gone on to lose their population entirely once the downward spiral of emigration has begun.

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A Geography of Islands: Small Island Insularity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vi
  • Tables viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1 - Islands 1
  • References 23
  • 2 - Islands 25
  • References 40
  • 3 - Insularity 42
  • 4 - Islands in the Past 68
  • 5 - Islands 87
  • 6 - Islands 110
  • 7 - Politics and Small Islands 134
  • 8 - Making a Living 166
  • References 186
  • 9 - Islands of Dreams 188
  • References 208
  • 10 - Conclusion 210
  • Index 227
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