British Indian Ocean Territory

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British Indian Ocean Territory
Flag of the British Indian Ocean Territory British Indian Ocean Territory: Coat of Arms
(In Detail) (Full size)
National motto: In tutela nostra Limuria
(Limuria is in our charge)
Location of the British Indian Ocean Territory
Official language English
Capital Diego Garcia
Largest city Diego Garcia Island
Commissioner Tony Crombie
Administrator Tony Humphries
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 77 (United Kingdom)
60 km²
 - Total
 - Density

 - Total
 - GDP/head
Currency Pound sterling; US Dollar (accepted)
Time zone UTC: +6 (DST: ?)
Independence overseas territory of the UK
National anthem N/A
Internet TLD .io
Calling code +246 (Diego Garcia)

The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) comprises the six atolls of the Chagos Archipelago with about 56 individual islands in the Indian Ocean, about one-half the way from Africa to Indonesia, around 6°S, 71°30'E. It is an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom (UK). Diego Garcia, the largest and southernmost island, occupies a strategic location in the central Indian Ocean and is the site of a joint military facility between the UK and the United States. The total land area of the Territory is 60 square kilometres.



BIOT prior to Seychelles independence in 1976. Desroches is not shown, but it is a part of the Amirante Islands.
BIOT prior to Seychelles independence in 1976. Desroches is not shown, but it is a part of the Amirante Islands.

BIOT was established as a territory of the United Kingdom on November 8, 1965, consisting of Chagos Archipelago, Aldabra, Farquhar and Desroches (Des Roches) islands. On June 23, 1976, Aldabra, Farquhar and Desroches were returned to Seychelles as a result of it attaining independence. 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 resident 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. The territory is a possession of the United Kingdom administered by a commissioner, who is resident in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom; the United States lease on Diego Garcia will expire in 2016. However, the Chagos Archipelago is claimed by Mauritius [1]. When BIOT was created the UK Government gave an undertaking to cede the Chagos islands to Mauritius when they were no longer required for defence purposes [2].

Government and politics

Main article: Government of British Indian Ocean Territory

As a territory of the United Kingdom, its head of state is Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, and the head of government is Commissioner Tony Crombie (since January 2004, replacing David Ross MacLennan) and Administrator Tony Humphries (since February 2005, replacing Charles A. Hamilton), all of whom reside in the UK. No elections are held; the monarch is hereditary, and the commissioner and the administrator are appointed by the monarch.


A BIOT police station on Diego Garcia
A BIOT police station on Diego Garcia

All economic activity is concentrated on Diego Garcia, where joint UK-US defence facilities are located. Approximately 2,000 native inhabitants, known as the Chagosians or Ilois, were forcibly removed to Mauritius before construction of UK-US military facilities; in 1995, there were approximately 1700 UK and US military personnel and 1500 civilian contractors living on the island. 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. The licensing of commercial fishing provides an annual income of about one million dollars for the Territory. [3]. Separate telephone facilities for military and public needs are available, providing all standard commercial telephone services, including connection to the Internet. International telephone service is carried by satellite. The Territory has three radio broadcast stations, one AM and two FM, and one television broadcast station. Its Internet country code (top-level domain) is IO. Postage stamps have been issued for British Indian Ocean Territory since 17 January 1968.

Geography and communications

Main article: Geography of British Indian Ocean Territory.

Most of the islands in the territory have no roads of any sort; Diego Garcia has a short stretch of paved road between the port and airfield; most transport is by bicycle. Diego Garcia includes a major naval port but no other island has a port or harbour. The only airport is the military base on Diego Garcia, which has numerous paved runways, some over 3000 metres long.

edit British dependencies Flag of the United Kingdom
Overseas territories: Anguilla | Bermuda | British Antarctic Territory | British Indian Ocean Territory | British Virgin Islands | Cayman Islands | Falkland Islands | Gibraltar | Montserrat | Pitcairn Islands | Saint Helena (Ascension, Tristan da Cunha) | South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands | Turks and Caicos Islands
Crown dependencies: Guernsey | Jersey | Isle of Man
UK Sovereign Base Areas: Akrotiri and Dhekelia (in Cyprus)

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