British Indian Ocean Territory

British Indian Ocean Territory
a British colony in the Indian Ocean, consisting of the Chagos Archipelago. 76 sq. mi. (177 sq. km). Cap.: Diego Garcia.

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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 which had excluded them from the archipelago, but upheld the special military status of Diego Garcia. Geography British Indian Ocean Territory
Location: Southern Asia, archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 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: exclusive fishing zone: 200 NM territorial sea: 3 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 around the time of the construction of UK-US military facilities; 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 2002 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 John WHITE (since NA); Administrator Louise SAVILL (since NA); 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 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 stretch of paved road of NA km between port and airfield on Diego Garcia unpaved: NA km
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: Diego Garcia
Airports: 1 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 1 over 3,047 m: 1 (2001) 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; repatriation is complicated by the US military lease of Diego Garcia, the largest island in the chain

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▪ British colony, Indian Ocean
  overseas territory of the United Kingdom in the central Indian Ocean, established in 1965 by the amalgamation of the Aldabra Islands and the Farquhar and Desroches islands (all purchased from the Seychelles) with the Chagos Archipelago (formerly a dependency of Mauritius). In 1976 the islands purchased from the Seychelles were returned to the newly independent Republic of Seychelles. Thereafter the colony comprised only the islands of the Chagos Archipelago. The archipelago constitutes a semicircular group, open to the east, comprising the Salomon Islands, Peros Banhos atoll, Nelsons Island, the Three Brothers Islands, the Eagle Islands, Danger Island, the Egmont Islands, and Diego Garcia atoll, the largest (17 square miles [44 square km]) and southernmost landmass in the group and the location of a significant U.S. military base.

      The territory is administered by a commissioner of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Although there is no permanent civilian population on the islands, generally about 4,000 U.S. and British military and contract civilian personnel are stationed there. The territory has a total land area of 23 square miles (60 square km).

      Lying at the centre of the Indian Ocean region and out of the path of cyclonic storms, the archipelago is strategically located. The islands, uninhabited when they were discovered by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century, were situated on international trade routes and became the focus of competing claims by European powers. In the late 18th century France took possession of the Chagos Archipelago and Seychelles as dependencies of Mauritius, and coconut plantations were established to produce copra. Slaves were imported from Africa to work the plantations. Ownership passed to Britain in 1814 under the Treaty of Paris (Paris, Treaties of).

      During the Cold War an agreement between the governments of Britain and the United States led to the creation of the British Indian Ocean Territory, where defense and communications facilities were established to counterbalance the Soviet military presence in the region. A major British-U.S. military facility was built on Diego Garcia in 1971, and the plantations there were closed. Between 1967 and 1973, Britain removed the Ilois, or Chagossians—indigenous inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago, descended from African slaves and Indian plantation workers—who were given the choice of resettlement in either Seychelles or Mauritius; the majority chose the latter. A small number of Ilois went to the United Kingdom. Expansion of the military facilities during the late 1970s and '80s was opposed by neighbouring states, who viewed the base as compromising the nonmilitarized status of the Indian Ocean region. Numerous air strikes were launched from Diego Garcia during the Persian Gulf War (1990–91), the U.S.-led attacks on Afghanistan (2001), and the initial phase (2003) of the Iraq War.

      In 2000 the British High Court found that the removal of the Ilois had been illegal. The court granted them the immediate right to return to any of the islands except Diego Garcia, although the Ilois maintained that the right to return to that atoll would have to be part of any resolution. At the time of the ruling, the Ilois numbered some 5,000. British and U.S. officials opposed the plan for resettlement, but in 2006 the High Court upheld its decision. In 2007 the British government lost its case before the Court of Appeal but announced its intention to challenge that decision in the House of Lords. The following year a majority of the panel of five Law Lords ruled against the islanders, although the government expressed regret for the original resettlement.

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Universalium. 2010.

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