It’s easy to miss The Gambia on a map of mighty Africa. This tiny sliver of land is a mere 500km long and 50km wide, and, with the exception of an 80km shoreline, it’s entirely enveloped by Senegal. The Gambia is one of Africa’s smallest countries and unlike many of its West African neighbours it has enjoyed long spells of stability since independence.
Stability has not translated into prosperity. Despite the presence of the Gambia river, which runs through the middle of the country, only one-sixth of the land is arable and poor soil quality has led to the predominance of one crop - peanuts. About a third of the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.
Three Gambian journalists have been arrested since the coup attempt. It has been suggested that they were imprisoned for criticising the government’s economic policy, or for stating that a former interior minister and security chief was among the plotters. Licensing fees are high for newspapers and radio stations, and the only nationwide stations are tightly controlled by the government.
In 2008, Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh promised to enact laws against homosexuality that would be “stricter than those in Iran,” and that he would “cut off the head” of any gay or lesbian person discovered in the country. He issued an “ultimatum” ordering gays or lesbians to leave the country within 24 hours.
The Pitcairn Islands are a loosely grouped handful of tiny islands in the remote South Pacific, farther from any continent than any other inhabited island. The islands are the last British colony in the South Pacific and most isolated British dependency. With only about 48 inhabitants (currently from four main families: Christian, Warren, Young and Brown), Pitcairn is the least populous jurisdiction in the world. The rugged main island was settled by the infamous mutineers of the HMS Bounty and their Polynesian companions, and most of Pitcairn’s mere four dozen current inhabitants are their descendants.They are one of the least-populated entities given an ISO country code (PN).
The population are mostly members of the Seventh Day Adventist church, following mission work in the late 19th century. Although religious observance has declined, church doctrine strongly influences both public practice and civil law. For example, alcohol was legally prohibited until recently; dancing, public displays of affection, and cigarette smoking are frowned upon; and the Sabbath (Saturday) is consistently considered a day of rest (if not worship).
The recent trials of several Pitcairn men (including the former mayor and much of the island’s workforce) on sexual abuse charges have been very difficult for the close-knit island community, with everyone being a friend or family of at least one of the victims, the suspects, or the convicted. The incident has also brought to the surface tensions over Pitcairn’s sovereignty (such as unfamiliar UK laws being tried by New Zealand courts).
The island is out-of-range of all evacuation helicopters. Needless to say, this is no place to have a heart attack, stroke, and so on. A full medical check-up back home a couple weeks before arrival is strongly recommended.
The self-declared country of Transnistria clings to its Soviet roots. Located on a sliver of land where the eastern border of Moldova meets Ukraine, Transnistria has its own government, parliament, military, police and postal system, but remains unrecognised internationally.
Though it has all the trappings of an independent nation, it isn’t officially recognised by any other sovereign nation - not even Russia - and to all intents and purposes is still considered to be part of Moldova.
Visitors to Transnistria coming from Moldova must complete all the formalities of a border crossing at a checkpoint manned by Russian, Transnistrian and Moldovan soldiers.
The territory maintains a Soviet feel that has been described as “surreal”, with the flag sporting the hammer and sickle emblem of Communism. Soviet-era monuments still look out over public areas and buildings adorned with socialist-realist murals. These Communist relics are actively cared for and maintained thanks to municipal funds.
Despite scare reports, Tiraspol is very welcoming, mainly because it gets so few tourists. Young people speak English and are helpful. The city is well-policed. Crime is low.
Approximately 45 miles west of the Outer Hebrides, St Kilda was once home to Britain’s most isolated community.
Most modern commentators feel that the predominant theme of life on St Kilda was isolation. When Martin Martin visited the islands in 1697, the only means of making the journey was by open boat, which could take several days and nights of rowing and sailing across the ocean and was next to impossible in autumn and winter. In all seasons, waves up to 12 metres (39 ft) high lash the beach of Village Bay, and even on calmer days landing on the slippery rocks can be hazardous. Separated by distance and weather, the natives knew little of mainland and international politics. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, it was rumoured that Prince Charles Edward Stuart and some of his senior Jacobite aides had escaped to St Kilda. An expedition was launched, and in due course British soldiers were ferried ashore to Hirta. They found a deserted village, as the St Kildans, fearing pirates, had fled to caves to the west. When the St Kildans were persuaded to come down, the soldiers discovered that the isolated natives knew nothing of the prince and had never heard of King George II either.
Numerous factors led to the evacuation of St Kilda. The islands’ inhabitants had existed for centuries in relative isolation until tourism and the presence of the military in World War I induced the islanders to seek alternatives to privations they routinely suffered. The changes made to the island by visitors in the nineteenth century disconnected the islanders from the way of life that had allowed their forebears to survive in this unique environment.
Campione d’Italia is an Italian comune (municipality) of the Province of Como in the Lombardy region, being an Italian exclave within the Swiss canton of Ticino, separated from the rest of Italy by Lake Lugano and mountains. The enclave is less than 1 km at the shortest point from the rest of Italy, but the hilly terrain requires a journey by road of over 14 km to reach the nearest Italian town, Lanzo d’Intelvi, and over 28 km to reach the city of Como.
Campione has a considerable amount of economic and administrative integration with Switzerland. Because of its particular status, legal tender in the town is the Swiss franc, but the euro is widely accepted; Italian citizens residing in Campione must abide by Swiss law regarding customs duties. Car plates are not Italian, but Swiss; similarly, the telephone system is almost entirely operated by Swisscom, meaning that calls from Italy and all other countries outside Switzerland (with very few exceptions such as calling the city hall) require the international dialing code for Switzerland (+41) and the Ticino area code (91). Mail may be sent using either a Swiss postal code or an Italian one using Switzerland or Italy as destination country respectively.
Pursuant to bilateral agreements, Italians residing in Campione also benefit from many services and facilities located in Swiss territory, such as hospital care, that would otherwise be available only to Swiss residents.
Bangladesh and India share over 4,000 km of common porous border, of which 6.5 km were still un-demarcated while the two countries have 162 such enclaves, 111 of them being Indian ones inside Bangladesh and the rest 51 being Bangladeshi ones inside India.
Chidambaram said 34,000 people currently lived in 111 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh while the rest 17,000 were residents of the 51 enclaves.
According to an earlier unofficial estimate the population of the Indian enclaves was around 100,400 while the the Bangladeshi enclaves inside India contain 44,000 people.
For decades, neither the Indian nor the Bangladeshi government has taken responsibility for them. Their villages do without basic public services like electricity and roads. Parents must forge documents to send their children to local schools. They cannot vote. Without identity documents they face arrest and imprisonment as illegal immigrants.
“We were born like this,” said Abdul Mutalib, of Madhya Masaldanga. “Our fathers were born like this. Neither side claims us. But our land is here. What else can we do? Where can we go?”
Nauru is the world’s smallest republic, covering just 21 square kilometres (8.1 sq mi). With 9,378 residents, it is the second least-populated country after Vatican City.
People live on the coastal edge, on a thin fringe of land protected by a reef which extends a couple of hundred metres off the coast and then plunges to deep, deep water.
During the good years of the 1980s and 90s, Nauru was so phosphate-wealthy that a family of five was said to be living off $100,000 a year, all of it distributed from phosphate royalties. After achieving independence in 1968, and taking control of the phosphate money for themselves, the people of the world’s tiniest – and richest - republic lived like kings.
Märket, which is Swedish for “boundary marker” (not “market,” as you might assume), is an uninhabited sea-rock with a difference. It not only marks the meeting of two seas, but the meeting of Sweden and Finland. And it does so in a weird and unique way. The international border on either side of the island is straight enough, but on the island itself, the boundary bends no less than eight times, achieving a bizarre symmetry. Although Märket is sometimes said to be the smallest sea island divided by an international border, it makes a stronger case as having the strangest insular border in the world.
International borders usually steer clear of tiny islands like Märket, precisely because of demarcational nightmares like the one it presents. It’s much easier to place, and correct, a maritime border than an insular one. Internationally divided islands conform to a geopolitical version of Sayre’s law, which holds that “academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.” In this case, the smaller the island, the messier the border.
Rockall (Irish: Rocal, Scottish Gaelic: Rocabarraigh) is a small, uninhabited, remote rocky islet in the North Atlantic Ocean. It gives its name to one of the sea areas named in the shipping forecast provided by the British Meteorological Office. In 1956 the British scientist James Fisher referred to the island as “the most isolated small rock in the oceans of the world.”
The ownership of Rockall is disputed. The islet is claimed by Denmark (for the Faroe Islands), Iceland, Ireland and theUnited Kingdom. All four governments have made submissions to the commission set up under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The issue was included in the provisional agenda of the meeting of the commission to be held in New York from 7 March to 21 April 2011 and recommendations pursuant to Article 76 of the Convention were made.