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  British Indian Ocean Territory  
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  Transnational Issues

In general, information available as of 1 January 2002
was used in the preparation of The World Factbook 2002.

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003

Map of British Indian Ocean Territory

Legend: Definition Definition Field Listing Field Listing
   Introduction    British Indian Ocean Territory
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 which had excluded them from the archipelago, but upheld the special military status of Diego Garcia.
   Geography    British Indian Ocean Territory
Definition Field Listing
Southern Asia, archipelago in the Indian Ocean, about one-half the way from Africa to Indonesia
Geographic coordinates:
Definition Field Listing
6 00 S, 71 30 E
Map references:
Definition Field Listing
Political Map of the World
Definition Field Listing
total: 60 sq km
note: includes the entire Chagos Archipelago
water: 0 sq km
land: 60 sq km
Area - comparative:
Definition Field Listing
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
exclusive fishing zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 3 NM
Definition Field Listing
tropical marine; hot, humid, moderated by trade winds
Definition Field Listing
flat and low (most areas do not exceed four 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: NEGL
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
Definition Field Listing
0 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
Definition Field Listing
Environment - current issues:
Definition Field Listing
Geography - note:
Definition Field Listing
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
Definition Field Listing
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:
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 Alan HUCKLE (since 2001); 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:
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
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.
Electricity - production:
Definition Field Listing
NA kWh; note - electricity supplied by the US military
Electricity - consumption:
Definition Field Listing
NA kWh
   Communications    British Indian Ocean Territory
Telephones - main lines in use:
Definition Field Listing
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)
Definition Field Listing
Television broadcast stations:
Definition Field Listing
1 (1997)
Definition Field Listing
Internet country code:
Definition Field Listing
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
Definition Field Listing
1 (2000)
   Transportation    British Indian Ocean Territory
Definition Field Listing
total: NA km
paved: short stretch of paved road of NA km between port and airfield on Diego Garcia
unpaved: NA km
Definition Field Listing
Ports and harbors:
Definition Field Listing
Diego Garcia
Definition Field Listing
1 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
Definition Field Listing
total: 1
over 3,047 m: 1 (2002)
   Military    British Indian Ocean Territory
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
Disputes - international:
Definition Field Listing
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

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003

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