Suppose that I am going to unoccupied island in Oceania, the Carribean, or somewhere else.

Suppose I find an island where nobody is there, and nobody knows about it. If I invade it like a pirate (maybe alone or with friends)— and of course I am a rich guy, and have money to build a house, or buy some big ship, and have money to buy food and other goods from other inhabited islands to survive there— and suppose that I have a passport of another country, would that be considered unlawful? What punishment would I get?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Oct 23 '16 at 18:31
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    There is no such thing as an island that nobody knows about. We have satellite photography of every square centimetre of the planet; we know where all the islands are. Jun 18 '17 at 9:35
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about travel. Jun 18 '17 at 9:36
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about travel.
    – fkraiem
    Jul 4 '19 at 9:26

You are asking the wrong question.

Finding uninhabiteds island is not a problem, there are countless ones in Oceania or the Caribbean.

Marooning was the term of leaving someone on an uninhabited island and it was considered a capital punishment.

The reason is simple: What do you want to do there what you cannot do with a big yacht or a house on a inhabitated island ? You have already the precondition that you have enough money. With a big yacht you can travel everywhere, replenish stocks and do what you please. A house on an inhabited island gives you social life to enjoy.

Living on an island grows stale very quickly. Most uninhabited islands are for a reason uninhabited: They cannot sustain life for one or several persons, so replenishment of stocks and therefore contact with the outer world are a necessity. If you cannot avoid contact why living on an island (instead on a yacht or house of an inhabited island) in the first place ?

What about friends ? They may find it cool to party some time, but sooner or later a problem occurs: Cabin fever. Every time a group is isolated and have no possibility to withdraw, it causes irritation and finally aggression.

Anyway, all islands are under a jurisdiction. While officials may never find out what you are doing, once they know they can forcibly evict and punish you. And the law also applies for everything you have done, so no room for misbehavior. User cpast provided in the comments an example:The attempt to elevate the unoccupied Minerva Reefs near Tonga to an own nation. Tonga forced the claimants to abandon their attempt.

Forget the idea.

  • Thanks for information. So yeah, its illegal to live like that, and sooner or later someone will find out. The question is: How can law enforcement agencies can do that, if im just living there and going to inhabited island for example once a month?
    – Potter
    Mar 19 '15 at 19:22
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    Concerning "Dont think that they will do anything": This is wishful thinking. What will likely happen is that after finally finding out what were you doing the local law enforcement will come with a patrol boat, handcuff you, dismantle anything you done there and forcibly evict you. If you are unlucky, after an unpleasant sitting before a court you will be punished, charged for removal of your buildings and forcibly evicted to your home country, almost certainly with a restriction order to never come back. Mar 19 '15 at 20:54
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    @Potter are you asking whether your hypothetical ability to go undetected makes your living on the island legal? It would not. Murders, robberies, and other crimes often go unsolved, and the perpetrators therefore unpunished, but that fact does not make the acts legal. Other crimes, such as visa overstays, often go undetected, but that also does not make the acts legal.
    – phoog
    Mar 19 '15 at 20:55
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    @Potter to answer "how they can find me": they will find you if they visit the island or otherwise inspect it for signs of activity. You will presumably be able to live there until they do that, which could be any length of time.
    – phoog
    Mar 19 '15 at 21:04
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    @Potter "how they can find me": We have satellites now. Emerging technologies are making it increasingly possible to do real-time scanning of large areas using satellite imagery. All it takes is someone sitting at a desk somewhere, with a list of islands under a nation's jurisdiction, and a computer where they can plugin coordinates into Google Maps or other similar technology. These days, it can be done fairly cheap and easy. The only thing preventing someone from finding out is if they simply don't care about enforcing laws on a given island. Mar 20 '15 at 17:57

I suppose it depends whose the island belongs to. If you find a completely unknown island, I suppose it will be yours, or at least you can claim it. If it belongs to another country, you will have to respect the law of this country, in terms of settlement and building construction.

If you take the example of Clipperton island, a French territory with no inhabitant, the French law applies and anyone who wants to access it or start a business (most likely to use its natural resources) should apply to the French authority:

[le] Haut-commissaire de la République en Polynésie française, représentant de l'État, à qui il appartenait d'accorder des autorisations aux particuliers désirant aborder l'atoll ou y obtenir des concessions d'exploitation.

The Wikipedia article still mentions that many smugglers and fishermen most likely come to the island and a French military boat sometimes comes and, among other duties, replaces the vandalised French flag and commemorative stone.


The key is "and nobody knows about it" - I doubt such an island exists, much less in the habitable zones of our planet. All the land, including little rocky islands, is known and mapped and claimed.

In some countries, land that nobody holds a deed for belongs to the country itself and you are forbidden to do certain things (such as building houses) on it. See Crown Land for example. It's open to the public but it's not yours to do with as you will. In other countries, land belongs (in large swaths including small islands just offshore) to the nearest village, and a visitor can't so much as swim at a beach without paying a small fee to the village chief. In still other countries, there just isn't any land that nobody holds a deed for, and that includes your "deserted" islands with nobody appearing to know about them.

The days of "I claim this land for X" are long gone. You would have to buy the island, and there's a good chance whoever owns it isn't willing to sell it to you.

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    Oh, you can find islands to buy easily enough (for the right price), and not just in places like the Bahamas or Samoa, but even in Hawaii and the Mediterranean. The trouble is that living on a private island sucks and buying one is not a great investment.
    – choster
    Mar 19 '15 at 19:04
  • I understand that all islands mapped, but i think there are islands which are unuseful for everything, and nobody goes there.
    – Potter
    Mar 19 '15 at 19:36
  • @Potter but what then is your question? Why would you want to go to an island to which nobody wants to go?
    – phoog
    Mar 19 '15 at 20:58
  • I dont want to go alone, only with comrades, which like that conditions, thats my dream.
    – Potter
    Mar 19 '15 at 21:13

Actually, if you take a piece of land, and no one claims it for a while (meaning enact court action against you on order to recover the legal possession of such a land) you will eventually acquire the property/ownership of it through the legal institute that is called "Acquisitive Prescription" in US and UK law systems (it is called "Usucaption" from Latin "usucapio" in Civil Law systems such as France and Germany).
The institute shouldn't consider your country of citizenship on regards of your ownership rights arising from acquisitive prescription, however some countries and jurisdictions may do consider it.
In that case only a national of those countries would be able to achieve ownership rights through acquisitive prescription or usucaption.
Just do some research on court cases and decisions on acquisitive prescription (or usucaption, usucapio, or something like, if you looking to move to a country which legal system is based on civil, and not common, law).

Through this research you will find how long you will need to remain as a peaceful occupant of a land parcel to claim its ownership through acquisitive prescription.
Then go there, look for a piece of "res dereclita" (abandoned land) and take it over.
If no one goes against you in a court of law to recover that land, it will eventually be legally yours.

  • The problem here (at least for territory of California, the only jurisdiction with which I'm familiar) is that adverse possession is not effective against lands owned by any government. It only works against private owners. I'll bet the law's similar in other states and countries. Jul 4 '19 at 13:57

Well, if you live there, by definition it will no longer be unoccupied ;-)

Seriously, though; I think there would be no problem legally - if no country or person owns it, I think no-one could stop you living there for free, even if that would mean setting up a tent and catching fish.

  • I meant uninhabited..im not native speaker:)
    – Potter
    Mar 20 '15 at 10:31
  • @Potter Uninhabited also means no one lives there. If you live there, it isn't uninhabited. :) It might have been uninhabited prior to your arrival, but it will not be uninhabited once you arrive... until one of the nations that claims it comes and removes you. Then it will be uninhabited again. :)
    – reirab
    Mar 20 '15 at 21:21

Much better to make an artificial island, so that you can move it where you want. A friend of mine, a journalist, has created one in Amsterdan with recycled PET in early 2000. Then he covered it with grass, a nice house and some trees. He also wrote a book about that experiment.


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