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South America and South Atlantic Islands

Ascension Island (British Overseas Territory) Flag of Ascension Island

Last reviewed: 24 March 2009

Country information


Map of Ascension Island

Status: British Overseas Territory, Dependency of St Helena
Area: 90 sq km
Population: 1,000
Capital City: Georgetown
Languages: English
Religion: Christian
Currency: St Helena/Ascension Pound
Governor: Andrew Gurr (resides in St Helena)
Administrator: Ross Denny

DID YOU KNOW

With effect from 1 December 2006, the sale of commercial air tickets from the UK to Ascension Island and from Ascension Island to the UK on the MOD South Atlantic Charter is being offered exclusively by the Ascension Island Travel Agency (AITA), a department of the Ascension Island Government.

The Ascension Island Travel Agency, AITA, is located at the AIG Shipping Office in Georgetown and is the primary contact for enquiries. Bookings can be made in person, or by telephone + 00 247 6244, Fax + 00 247 6827, or through a specially designed website, from www.ascention-flights.com

Enquiries can be made by contact: jolene.sim@ascension.gov.ac
 
Please note that all visitors to Ascension Island require entry approval prior to travel. All visitors must complete and return the "Ascension Island Entry Permit" prior to travelling. The form can  be downloaded from the Ascension Island Governent website at www.ascension-island.gov.ac and should be faxed back to +(247) 6152. Please apply at least 28 days in advance of your proposed visit.

All visitors should read the Entry Permit Guidance Notes before completing their application form.

The Ascension Island entry permit is the equivalent of a travel Visa. If you do not have pre approved entry permission you will most likely not receive permission to travel. This applies to all visitors who intend to clear passport control, including those who are transferring from ship to plane and vice versa.

ECONOMY

Prior to April 2002, in the absence of a conventional government with revenue raising powers, public and common services were funded and provided by the Users and the military, who each contributed an agreed sum annually.

A fiscal and economic report on Ascension Island, conducted in March 2000, recommended that future revenue for the Ascension Island Government should be raised through the introduction of taxation. As a result of this, and in close collaboration with the Users and the military, a concept paper was produced which determined that the Ascension Island Government would take over responsibility for those public services normally provided by a government. Those commercial services not appropriate to government operation moved to private operators.

The introduction of the new fiscal regime took place in April 2002. Revenue is now raised from Personal Income Tax, Property Tax, Import Duties and a small amount of local revenue such as philatelic sales. Prior to the finalisation of the tax framework the Ascension Island Government had lengthy and detailed negotiations with the commercial organisations and the military to ensure that no individual suffered a reduction in their take-home (net) pay. Property Tax is paid by public and commercial organisations, and Import Duty is limited to covering only tobacco products, alcohol and fuel. Import Duty is therefore an indirect tax and its impact on the individual is determined by their purchasing preferences.

Ascension aims to have and has had a balanced fiscal budget, with small reserves for several years. The total Revenue budget (Consolidated Fund) for 2008/09 is £6.17m. Government expenditure funds public services including a school, a hospital (offering limited services but with basic surgical capability), police and judicial services which are available without charge to Ascension Island tax payers.

Ascension has a small private sector. The former government owned Georgetown shop is now owned and managed in the private sector by Solomons. The former Guest House now operates successfully as the Obsidian Hotel and there are several other small retail units and sport fishing operators.

HISTORY

The Portuguese sea-farer Joao da Nova discovered the island in 1501. It has no indigenous population. In 1815, a small British garrison was stationed on Ascension.
It remained under Admiralty supervision until 1922, when it was made a dependency of St Helena. During the Second World War, the US Government established an airstrip and the US Space Command still use Ascension, primarily for the down-range tracking of missile launches. Ascension was also a staging post for the transport of troops and equipment to and from the Falklands during the conflict in 1982 and the RAF continues to have a base there to support its regular flights to the Falklands. The BBC World Service broadcasts radio programmes to Africa from Ascension and Cable and Wireless is also present on the island.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Ascension Island’s Relations with the International Community

HMG is responsible for Ascension Island’s external relations.

Ascension's relations with the UK

HMG is responsible for Ascension Island’s external relations, defence and internal security. The principal point of contact is the Overseas Territories Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Administrator’s Office, Georgetown, Ascension Island.

Wideawake

Wideawake airfield on Ascension, a US Military Base providing regular flights to and from Britain, also forms part of St Helena’s gateway to the world and an important transit point for the many Saint Helenians who work on the Falkland Islands. Negotiations with the US authorities, concluded in October 2003 with the signing of an agreement, allow limited air-charter access to the airfield.  This agreement was extended for a further five year period from the beginning of October 2008.

GEOGRAPHY

Ascension lies 700 miles to the north west of St Helena. It is a rocky peak of volcanic origin with 44 distinct craters. The last eruption took place about 600 years ago. Ascension is an important breeding site for the green turtle and various species of sea bird, notably the Sooty Tern or Wideawake and the Frigate Bird. It has a fragile environment, which the Administrator is seeking to protect. As an example of this the British Government gave (in March 2001) the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) £500,000, to rid Ascension Island of feral cats that had decimated the once huge seabird population, one of the world’s most important breeding colonies. By early 2003 four species of seabird had already re-colonised the mainland as breeding species and predation on the sooty tern population had been reduced to nil. Since the eradication of the feral cats the rat population is increasing, as are rabbits. Ascension Island Government has embarked on control programmes.

POLITICS

In 1998 Ministers considered the constitutional future for Ascension Island and its link with St Helena. They concluded that we should review the constitutional rights of residents of Ascension Island and promote its economic development.

For many years the island had been governed and financed by the main commercial organisations (including the BBC and Cable and Wireless), known as the 'Users' and the military. But in 2001/02 the Users informed HMG that they wanted to opt out of providing infrastructure and public services on the island and concentrate on their own interests. This decision coincided with the Ministerial view that fundamental changes were necessary in the way Ascension was run.

The Governor, Administrator, and the FCO consulted widely with residents on Ascension Island about the form of democratic government to be introduced.
A plebiscite was held in 2002 and 95% of those who voted chose the option of forming an Island Council. A general election to appoint elected members to the Island Council took place on 1 November 2002. Elections were held again in 2005.

The Island Council is constituted to consist of seven elected members plus the Director of Financial Services and the Attorney General. It is chaired by the Governor, who is represented locally by the Island Administrator. The Island Council’s role is to advise the Governor on matters of law and policy, however the Governor retains special responsibility (e.g. defence, external affairs, internal security and the public service) to protect the UK Government’s overall responsibility for good governance and security of the island.

In March 2007, following the resignations of six of the seven Island Councillors, the Governor decided in consultation with the Foreign Office, that the Council could no longer fulfil its role. The Council was dissolved and a general election called for 1 May 2007. However, as only two people put forward their names as prospective candidates, the Governor suspended the Island Council for a period of up to 12 months. In the interim period, the Governor was assisted by an Advisory Council in taking such legislative and policy decisions as he needed to take for good governance in Ascension Fresh elections were successfully held in October 2008 with a new Island Council sworn in on October 27th.
 
Administrator's Office

Administrator: His Honour Mr Ross Denny
The Administrator’s Office
Georgetown
Ascension Island
South Atlantic Ocean
ASCN 1ZZ
Tel: 00 247 7000
Fax: 00 247 6152
Email: ross.denny@ascension.gov.ac

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contacts

Ascension Island, Georgetown, The Administrator's Office

Address:

The Administrator's Office
Georgetown
Ascension Island
South Atlantic Ocean

Telephone:

(00) 247 7000

Fax:

247 6152

Email: aigenquiries@ascension.gov.ac

Office hours:

GMT:
Mon-Fri: 0800-1230 and 1330-1630 (to 1600 on Fridays)

Website: http://www.ascension-island.gov.ac