Estimation for an island model where mutation maintains a k-allele neutral polymorphism at a single locus on each island is considered. The likelihood of an observed sample type configuration is obtained by applying a computational algorithm analogous to Griffiths and Tavaré (Theor. Popul. Biol. 46 (1994), 131-159). This allows the computation of sampling distributions in an island model and investigation of their properties. Given a sample type configuration, the maximum likelihood estimate of the migration parameter is obtained by simulating independently the likelihood at a grid of points and, also, using a surface simulation method. The latter method generates the whole likelihood trajectory in a single application of the simulation program. An estimate of variance of the estimate of the migration parameter is obtained using the likelihood trajectory. A comparison of the maximum likelihood estimates of the gene flow between subpopulations is made with those obtained by using Wright's FST statistic.