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Formerly administered as part of the British Crown Colony of Mauritius, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) was established as an overseas territory of the UK in 1965. A number of the islands of the territory were later 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. Between 1967 and 1973, former agricultural workers, earlier residents in the islands, were relocated primarily to Mauritius, but also to the Seychelles. Negotiations between 1971 and 1982 resulted in the establishment of a trust fund by the British Government as... See More



 Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, south of India, about halfway between Africa and Indonesia

Geographic Coordinates:

 6 00 S, 71 30 E; note - Diego Garcia 7 20 S, 72 25 E


 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


 698 km (Rank: 95)

Maritime Claims:

 Territorial sea: 3 nm
Exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm


 Tropical marine; hot, humid, moderated by trade winds


 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

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

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 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 2004, approximately 4,000 UK and US military personnel and civilian contractors were living on the island of Diego Garcia

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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 Colin ROBERTS (since July 2008); Administrator John MCMANUS (since April 2011); note - both reside in the UK and are represented by the officer commanding British Forces on Diego Garcia

Cabinet: NA

Elections: none; the monarchy 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 (the symbols of the territory) centered on the outer half of the flag; the wavy stripes represent the Indian Ocean; although not officially described, the six blue stripes may stand for the six main atolls of the archipelago


 (overseas territory of the UK)

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Economy - Overview:

 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. The territory earns foreign exchange by selling fishing licenses and postage stamps.

Electricity - Production:

 NA kWh
note - electricity supplied by the US military

Exchange Rates:

 Convert United States Dollar to Any Currency

The US dollar is used

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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)

Broadcast Media:

 Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) broadcasts over 3 separate frequencies for US and UK military personnel stationed on the islands (2009)

Radio Broadcast Stations:

 AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 0 (1998)

Television Broadcast Stations:

 1 (1997)

Internet Country Code:


Internet Hosts:

 827 (2010)

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 1 (2010)

Airports - With Paved Runways:

 Total: 1
Over 3,047 m: 1 (2010)


 Note: short section of paved road between port and airfield on Diego Garcia

Ports and Terminals:

 Diego Garcia

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Military Branches:

 No regular military forces

Military - Note:

 Defense is the responsibility of the UK; the US lease on Diego Garcia expires in 2016

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Disputes - International:

 Mauritius and Seychelles claim the Chagos Islands; in 2001, the former inhabitants of the archipelago, evicted 1967 - 1973, were granted UK citizenship and the right of return, followed by Orders in Council in 2004 that banned rehabitation, a High Court ruling reversing the ban, a Court of Appeal refusal to hear the case, and a Law Lords' decision in 2008 denying the right of return; in addition, the United Kingdom created the world's largest marine protection area around the Chagos islands prohibiting the extraction of any natural resources therein

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Last Updated: December 2011

British Indian Ocean Territory Main Page World Factbook Main Page


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