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  British Indian Ocean Territory
(overseas territory of the UK)
Flag of British Indian Ocean Territory
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 Transnational Issues

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007

Map of British Indian Ocean Territory

Legend: DefinitionDefinition Field ListingField Listing Rank OrderRank Order
   Introduction    British Indian Ocean Territory Top of Page
Definition Field Listing
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 Top of Page
Definition Field Listing
archipelago in the Indian Ocean, south of India, about one-half the way from Africa to Indonesia
Geographic coordinates:
Definition Field Listing
6 00 S, 71 30 E; note - Diego Garcia 7 20 S, 72 25 E
Map references:
Definition Field Listing
Political Map of the World
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 54,400 sq km
land: 60 sq km; Diego Garcia 44 sq km
water: 54,340 sq km
note: includes the entire Chagos Archipelago of 55 islands
Area - comparative:
Definition Field Listing
land area is about 0.3 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries:
Definition Field Listing
0 km
Definition Field Listing
698 km
Maritime claims:
Definition Field Listing
territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Definition Field Listing
tropical marine; hot, humid, moderated by trade winds
Definition Field Listing
flat and low (most areas do not exceed two meters in elevation)
Elevation extremes:
Definition Field Listing
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Diego Garcia 15 m
Natural resources:
Definition Field Listing
coconuts, fish, sugarcane
Land use:
Definition Field Listing
arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (2005)
Irrigated land:
Definition Field Listing
0 sq km
Natural hazards:
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Environment - current issues:
Definition Field Listing
Geography - note:
Definition Field Listing
archipelago of 55 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 Top of Page
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
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 November 2004, there were approximately 4,000 UK and US military personnel and civilian contractors living on the island of Diego Garcia (July 2006 est.)
   Government    British Indian Ocean Territory Top of Page
Country name:
Definition Field Listing
conventional long form: British Indian Ocean Territory
conventional short form: none
abbreviation: BIOT
Dependency status:
Definition Field Listing
overseas territory of the UK; administered by a commissioner, resident in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London
Legal system:
Definition Field Listing
the laws of the UK, where applicable, apply
Executive branch:
Definition Field Listing
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952)
head of government: Commissioner Tony CROMBIE (since January 2004); Administrator Tony HUMPHRIES (since February 2005); note - both reside in the UK
cabinet: NA
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; commissioner and administrator appointed by the monarch
Diplomatic representation in the US:
Definition Field Listing
none (overseas territory of the UK)
Diplomatic representation from the US:
Definition Field Listing
none (overseas territory of the UK)
Flag description:
Definition Field Listing
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 Top of Page
Economy - overview:
Definition Field Listing
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. The country makes money by selling fishing licenses and postage stamps.
Electricity - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
NA kWh; note - electricity supplied by the US military
Electricity - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
NA kWh
Currency (code):
Definition Field Listing
both the British Pound (GBP) and the US Dollar (USD) are accepted
   Communications    British Indian Ocean Territory Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
Telephone system:
Definition Field Listing
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:
Definition Field Listing
AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 0 (1998)
Television broadcast stations:
Definition Field Listing
1 (1997)
Internet country code:
Definition Field Listing
Internet hosts:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
65 (2006)
   Transportation    British Indian Ocean Territory Top of Page
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
1 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
Definition Field Listing
total: 1
over 3,047 m: 1 (2006)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: NA
paved: short section of paved road between port and airfield on Diego Garcia
Ports and terminals:
Definition Field Listing
Diego Garcia
   Military    British Indian Ocean Territory Top of Page
Military - note:
Definition Field Listing
defense is the responsibility of the UK; the US lease on Diego Garcia expires in 2016
   Transnational Issues    British Indian Ocean Territory Top of Page
Disputes - international:
Definition Field Listing
Mauritius and Seychelles claim the Chagos Archipelago including Diego Garcia; in 2001 the former inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago, evicted in 1965 and now residing chiefly in Mauritius, were granted UK citizenship and the right to repatriation; 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 restricts access to the largest island in the chain;

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007

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