British Indian Ocean Territory

Flag of British Indian Ocean Territory
Map of British Indian Ocean Territory
Introduction British Indian Ocean Territory
Background:
Established as a territory of the UK in 1965, a number of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) islands were transferred to the Seychelles when it attained independence in 1976. Subsequently, BIOT has consisted only of the six main island groups comprising the Chagos Archipelago. The largest and most southerly of the islands, Diego Garcia, contains a joint UK-US naval support facility. All of the remaining islands are uninhabited. Former agricultural workers, earlier residents in the islands, were relocated primarily to Mauritius but also to the Seychelles, between 1967 and 1973. In 2000, a British High Court ruling invalidated the local immigration order that had excluded them from the archipelago, but upheld the special military status of Diego Garcia.
Geography British Indian Ocean Territory
Location:
archipelago in the Indian Ocean, south of India, about one-half the way from Africa to Indonesia
Geographic coordinates:
6 00 S, 71 30 E
Map references:
Political Map of the World
Area:
total: 60 sq km
note: includes the entire Chagos Archipelago
water: 0 sq km
land: 60 sq km
Area - comparative:
about 0.3 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries:
0 km
Coastline:
698 km
Maritime claims - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
territorial sea: 3 NM
exclusive fishing zone: 200 NM
Climate:
tropical marine; hot, humid, moderated by trade winds
Terrain:
flat and low (most areas do not exceed four meters in elevation)
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Diego Garcia 15 m
Natural resources:
coconuts, fish, sugarcane
Land use:
arable land: NEGL
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
0 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
NA
Environment - current issues:
NA
Geography - note:
archipelago of 2,300 islands; Diego Garcia, largest and southernmost island, occupies strategic location in central Indian Ocean; island is site of joint US-UK military facility
People British Indian Ocean Territory
Population:
no indigenous inhabitants
note: approximately 1,200 former agricultural workers resident in the Chagos Archipelago, often referred to as Chagossians or Ilois, were relocated to Mauritius and the Seychelles in the 1960s and 1970s, in November 2000 they were granted the right of return by a British High Court ruling, though no timetable has been set; in 2001, there were approximately 1,500 UK and US military personnel and 2,000 civilian contractors living on the island of Diego Garcia (July 2004 est.)
Government British Indian Ocean Territory
Country name:
conventional long form: British Indian Ocean Territory
conventional short form: none
abbreviation: BIOT
Dependency status:
overseas territory of the UK; administered by a commissioner, resident in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London
Legal system:
the laws of the UK, where applicable, apply
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952)
head of government: Commissioner Tony CROMBIE (since January 2004); Administrator Charles A. HAMILTON (since 2002); note - both reside in the UK
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; commissioner and administrator appointed by the monarch
cabinet: NA
Diplomatic representation in the US:
none (overseas territory of the UK)
Diplomatic representation from the US:
none (overseas territory of the UK)
Flag description:
white with six blue wavy horizontal stripes; the flag of the UK is in the upper hoist-side quadrant; the striped section bears a palm tree and yellow crown centered on the outer half of the flag
Economy British Indian Ocean Territory
Economy - overview:
All economic activity is concentrated on the largest island of Diego Garcia, where joint UK-US defense facilities are located. Construction projects and various services needed to support the military installations are done by military and contract employees from the UK, Mauritius, the Philippines, and the US. There are no industrial or agricultural activities on the islands. When the Ilois return, they plan to reestablish sugarcane production and fishing.
Electricity - production:
NA kWh; note - electricity supplied by the US military
Electricity - consumption:
NA kWh
Communications British Indian Ocean Territory
Telephones - main lines in use:
NA
Telephone system:
general assessment: separate facilities for military and public needs are available
domestic: all commercial telephone services are available, including connection to the Internet
international: international telephone service is carried by satellite (2000)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 0 (1998)
Radios:
NA
Television broadcast stations:
1 (1997)
Televisions:
NA
Internet country code:
.io
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)
Transportation British Indian Ocean Territory
Highways:
total: NA km
paved: short section of paved road between port and airfield on Diego Garcia
unpaved: NA km
Waterways:
none
Ports and harbors:
Diego Garcia
Airports:
1 (2003 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 1
over 3,047 m: 1 (2003 est.)
Military British Indian Ocean Territory
Military - note:
defense is the responsibility of the UK; the US lease on Diego Garcia expires in 2016
Transnational Issues British Indian Ocean Territory
Disputes - international:
Mauritius and Seychelles claim the Chagos Archipelago and its former inhabitants, who reside chiefly in Mauritius, but in 2001 were granted UK citizenship and the right to repatriation since eviction in 1965; the UK resists the Chagossians' demand for an immediate return to the islands; repatriation is complicated by the exclusive US military lease of Diego Garcia that restricted access to the largest island in the chain

This page was last updated on 11 May, 2004


 

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