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CIA Seal  World Factbook Seal 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; note - Diego Garcia 7 20 S, 72 25 E
Map references:
Political Map of the World
Area:
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:
land area is about 0.3 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries:
0 km
Coastline:
698 km
Maritime claims:
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 two 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: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (2005)
Irrigated land:
0 sq km
Natural hazards:
NA
Environment - current issues:
NA
Geography - note:
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
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 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
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 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:
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. The country makes money by selling fishing licenses and postage stamps.
Electricity - production:
NA kWh; note - electricity supplied by the US military
Electricity - consumption:
NA kWh
Currency (code):
Both the British Pound Sterling and the US Dollar are accepted.
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 hosts:
49 (2005)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)
Transportation British Indian Ocean Territory
Airports:
1 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 1
over 3,047 m: 1 (2006)
Roadways:
total: NA
paved: short section of paved road between port and airfield on Diego Garcia
Ports and terminals:
Diego Garcia
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 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 19 September, 2006