British Indian Ocean Territory

Status: Overseas territory

Commissioner: John White (1998)

Administrative headquarters: Victoria, Seychelles

Area: 85 sq mi (220 sq km)

Major sources and definitions

This territory, consisting of the Chagos Archipelago and other small island groups, was formed in 1965 by agreement with Mauritius and the Seychelles. One of its islands, Diego Garcia (17 sq mi), is a joint U.S.-UK refueling and support station that was used during the Persian Gulf War (1991), the war against Afghanistan (1991), and the second Iraq war (2003). The island's small native population, known as the Ilois or Chagos islanders, were forced to relocate (1967–1973) to Mauritius and the Seychelles, where the majority of these former agricultural workers live in poverty in urban slums. In 2000, a British court ruled that the immigration order was invalid but upheld the island's military status. The Ilois sued the British government for compensation and the right to repatriation, but in Oct. 2003 a British judge ruled that although the Ilois had been treated “shamefully” by the government, their claims were unfounded. In 2004 the British government issued an “Order of Council” prohibiting islanders from ever returning to Diego Garcia. But in May 2006, the high court in London ruled that the Chagossians may in fact return to other islands in the archipelagos, and described British conduct in the case as “outrageous, unlawful and a breach of accepted moral standards.”

See also Where in the World Is Diego Garcia?.

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