British Indian Ocean Territory
(dependent territory of the UK)
[Country Flag of British Indian Ocean Territory]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of British Indian Ocean Territory]

British Indian Ocean Territory


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Location: Southern Asia, archipelago in the Indian Ocean, about one-half the way from Africa to Indonesia

Geographic coordinates: 6 00 S, 71 30 E

Map references: World

total: 60 sq km
land: 60 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes the entire Chagos Archipelago

Area—comparative: about 0.3 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 698 km

Maritime claims:
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 3 nm

Climate: tropical marine; hot, humid, moderated by trade winds

Terrain: flat and low (up to four meters in elevation)

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Diego Garcia 15 m

Natural resources: coconuts, fish

Land use:
arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 0%
forests and woodland: NA%
other: NA%

Irrigated land: 0 sq km (1993)

Natural hazards: NA

Environment—current issues: NA

Environment—international agreements:
party to: NA
signed, but not ratified: NA

Geography—note: 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


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Population: no indigenous inhabitants
note: there are UK-US military personnel and civilian contractors; approximately 3,000 native inhabitants, known as the Chagosians or Ilois, were evacuated to Mauritius before construction of UK-US military facilities


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Country name:
conventional long form: British Indian Ocean Territory
conventional short form: none
abbreviation: BIOT

Data code: IO

Dependency status: dependent territory of the UK; administered by a commissioner, resident in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London

Legal system: NA

Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II of the UK (since 6 February 1952)
head of government: Commissioner David Ross MACLENNAN (since NA 1994); Administrator Don CAIRNS (since NA); note—both reside in the UK
cabinet: NA
elections: none; the queen is a hereditary monarch; commissioner and administrator appointed by the queen

Diplomatic representation in the US: none (dependent territory of the UK)

Diplomatic representation from the US: none (dependent territory of the UK)

Flag description: white with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and six blue wavy horizontal stripes bearing a palm tree and yellow crown centered on the outer half of the flag


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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.

Electricity—capacity: NA kW
note: electricity supplied by the US military

Electricity—production: NA kWh
note: electricity supplied by the US military

Electricity—consumption per capita: NA kWh


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Telephones: NA

Telephone system: facilities for military needs only
domestic: NA
international: NA

Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 1, shortwave 0

Radios: NA

Television broadcast stations: 1

Televisions: NA


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total: NA km
paved: short stretch of paved road of NA km between port and airfield on Diego Garcia
unpaved: NA km

Ports and harbors: Diego Garcia

Airports: 1 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 1
over 3,047 m: 1 (1997 est.)


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Military—note: defense is the responsibility of the UK; the US lease on Diego Garcia expires in 2016

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: the island of Diego Garcia is claimed by Mauritius; the Chagos Archipelago is claimed by Seychelles