British Indian Ocean

 

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:
Location: archipelago in the Indian Ocean, south of India, about half way between Africa and Indonesia
Geographic coordinates: 6 00 S, 71 30 E; note – Diego Garcia 7 20 S, 72 25 E
People:
No indigenous inhabitants
 

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

Government:
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
Communications:
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: country code (Diego Garcia) – 246; international telephone service is carried by satellite (2000)

Transportation:
Airports: 1 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 1

over 3,047 m: 1 (2012)

Military:

Defence is the responsibility of the UK; the US lease on Diego Garcia expires in 2016
Economy:All economic activity is concentrated on the largest island of Diego Garcia, where a joint UK-US military facility is located. Construction projects and various services needed to support the military installation are performed 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 native Ilois return, they plan to re-establish sugarcane production and fishing. The territory earns foreign exchange by selling fishing licenses and postage stamps.
Transnational Issues:

Mauritius and Seychelles claim the Chagos Archipelago including Diego Garcia; in 2001, the former inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago, evicted in 1967 and 1973 and now residing chiefly in Mauritius, were granted UK citizenship and the right to repatriation; in May 2006, the High Court of London reversed U.K. Government’s 2004 orders of council that banned habitation on the islands; a small group of Chagossians visited Diego Garcia in April 2006; repatriation is complicated by the exclusive US military lease of Diego Garcia that restricts access to the largest viable island in the chain